Haredi riot 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Close to a thousand ultra-Orthodox men held a late Saturday afternoon demonstration against the desecration of Shabbat, marking 100 weekends since the Karta parking lot in the capital began to open on the Jewish day of rest.
Police repeatedly stopped the participants from blocking the intersection of Strauss and Hanevi’im, on the southern border of the haredi area in central Jerusalem.
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The area resonated with yells of “Shabbes” aimed at security personnel, photographers and cars driving by, as well as at a handful of secular counter-demonstrators on the other side of the street.
Police pushing back the front line of protesters nearing Rehov Hanevi’im were subject to the occasional cry of “Nazis,” or reminded of the verse that “those who desecrate [Shabbat] shall die,” but retained their cool and avoided giving the demonstrators the desired pretext to up the level of violence, that was largely limited to pushing.
Police reported that stones were thrown at them, though nobody was wounded and no arrests were made at that stage.
The demonstration was headlined by Rabbi David Kahn, head of the Mea
She’arim-based Toldot Aharon hassidic sect whose golden kaftans stood
out in the sea of black coats.
It was Kahn who had issued the orders in advance of the rally that there
should be no violence or rock-throwing, and that the event – called for
5:15 p.m. – would be for half an hour only. Kahn, who arrived at the
demonstration a bit after it began, kept away from the line of
confrontation with police, and at 6:15 turned back and led his hassidim
toward the Toldot Aharon yeshiva, officially wrapping the demonstration.
Many protesters, however, remained in place and continued to chant and
to shout accusations at the police and media. One demonstrator was
arrested for assaulting police.
These rallies have taken place every week since the Karta parking lot
was opened two years ago. On recent Saturdays, there have been attempts
to block Rehov Hanevi’im, while secular activists have been keeping
vigil to ensure the freedom of movement on the central route, parallel
to Jaffa Road, which has long been closed due to the light rail project.
To Michael, a Toldot Aharon hassid walking away from the rally, it was
clear that violence against police was prohibited, as per the
instructions of his rabbi.
“The Torah forbids us to throw stones at Jews, and especially, God
forbid, on Shabbat, which would be a desecration of the day,” he said,
blaming the police presence for the scuffles and the verbal assaults.
“There will always be those at the fringes of these events who try to
heat things up,” he said. “What we are ordered to do is protest the
desecration of the sanctity of the day, and that is what we did [with
Asked whether such an event, which compelled police to come to ensure
the safety of motorists and reporters, was not causing massive Shabbat
desecration in itself, Michael replied: “I really can’t say, that is the
kind of question that our rabbis decide upon.”