(photo credit: John Backtane)
Haredi riots aimed at preventing civilian traffic on Rehov Hanevi’im reached a new height on Saturday afternoon, when over a hundred men of various sects tried to scare secular residents into steering clear of the Jerusalem thoroughfare, shouting “Shabbes,” pelting cars with stones and spitting on passersby.
At least one secular man was arrested after being accused by police of “provocation.”
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The man was driving his car on Rehov Hanevi’im when a large rock was thrown at the vehicle. He stepped out of the car and asked an officer why the police had shown up in such small numbers, faced with such a large and violent crowd.
He was told to “get out of here” or face arrest. When he said he had a right to use the road, he was handcuffed and taken away.
Police officers repeatedly pushed to the ground haredi men who were
throwing themselves at the windshields of every passing car, while
secular women who were dressed in a way considered immodest were spat
Several of the most violent rioters were lightly injured, mostly because of falling or jumping on the cars passing by.
There were fewer than 10 police officers on the scene, in three patrol
cars. At the riot’s climax at around 6:30 p.m., the number of haredi
protesters reached about 150.
Overwhelmed by the large crowd, officers became increasingly irritable
as the riot continued, but they did not use crowd dispersal means.
Around 7 p.m. there was no sign of the riot dying down, and the sole man
to have been handcuffed and taken away was the secular driver.
Every time a protester tried to block cars from driving through the
street, the officers who came to pull him away were besieged by the
angry mob with shouts of “Nazis” and “anti-Semites,” and they were also
A Christian who lives at the Anglican International School Jerusalem,
located near the intersection of Rehov Hanevi’im and Rehov Strauss,
caught on camera a clip where she was threatened with death unless she
She told The Jerusalem Post
that riots on Saturday have become a regular occurrence, but that this
one reached a new height of violence and a record number of protesters.
She stood on the sidelines, where several secular people carefully
looked on and occasionally applauded when a car managed to pass through
the mob. Officers repeatedly asked onlookers not to take pictures with
One officer who accused secular bystanders of stoking the flames told
this reporter: The haredi protesters “are idiots, you know they’re
idiots, so why are you coming out here?” A young haredi man who was
looking on without taking part in the riot told the Post
the protesters were “hurting” when secular residents drove through the
street on Shabbat because “they are Jews and you are also a Jew.”
“The ones who will be arrested are not us, but you. You just wait and see,” he calmly explained.
Since the closure of Jaffa Road due to the work on the Jerusalem Light
Rail, Rehov Hanevi’im has become one of the central arteries for traffic
into the city center.
According to an agreement between haredi leaders and the municipality,
Rehov Strauss, a dominantly haredi street, is closed on Shabbat with
police roadblocks at the point where it intersects Hanevi’im.
Hanevi’im serves as an alternative to the unusable Jaffa Road.
But in recent months, haredim have begun to come out before the end of
Shabbat in an effort to push the “boundary” between the secular and the
haredi Jerusalem further south.
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby said that between 50 to 150
haredim have been protesting at the intersection for the past few
months. Police consider it a “gathering” rather than a protest, and
therefore the demonstrators are not required to request permission from
the police to hold a legal demonstration.
Still, the police said they knew exactly when and where the protest
would be, and sent a patrol each week to ensure that the road stayed
open to traffic.
“If they try to block the street, we’ll get rid of them,” Ben Ruby said.
Haredim also renewed protests outside of the Karta parking lot, a
parking lot in the Old City that was the site of large-scale
demonstrations and violence two years ago when it was decided that the
parking lot would stay open on Shabbat.
Two weeks ago, 80 haredim demonstrated at the parking lot, and one haredi man was arrested.Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.