Liberal Jerusalem group plans ‘secular day of rage’

The major counter-protest comes after weeks of violent demonstrations by haredi extremists who blocked main traffic arteries in Israel in protest over draft warrants.

Anti-religious coercion protest in Jerusalem last month. (photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)
Anti-religious coercion protest in Jerusalem last month.
(photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)
A liberal group in Jerusalem is planning to hold a ‘secular day of rage’ on November 17, as a counterprotest to the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) day of rage held last month in the capital.
“Free Jerusalem,” which has been holding a weekly anti-religious coercion outside the Haredi neighborhood of Mea She’arim, announced on Thursday its intention to hold the event, and called on all pluralist sectors in Israel to voice their objection to the Haredi protests.
“The entire State of Israel witnessed in recent weeks protests of extremist factions from the ultra-Orthodox public, in which they blocked main roads and railways, and prevented traffic movement in central intersections – which left millions of citizens paralyzed for hours,” a statement on the Free Jerusalem Facebook page reads.
“The secular, democratic and liberal public remained silent – but we live in a state of law, and it is impossible to let these extremist to dictate us how to live... It is time to stop the madness and voice our objection.”
On October 19, more than 1,000 ultra-Orthodox protesters from the extremist Jerusalem Faction group of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach blocked traffic in the capital and other cities across the country in a “day of rage” to protest the arrests of two yeshiva students who evaded the draft.
The protesters, all male, shut down the major intersection near the Jerusalem Central Bus Station and held demonstrations in Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh and Safed. They sat in the streets, chanting, “We would rather go to jail than the army” and singing a song from the Passover Haggada about how in each generation someone tries to destroy the Jewish people but God saves it.
Police forces and Haredi rioters clash next to Merkaz Hatzalah offices in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem
City Councilwoman Laura Wharton (Meretz), who is one of initiators of the counter-protest, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that one purpose of the day is to express the frustration of the public over the ongoing situation.
“The public it frustrated, especially the secular public who work, pay taxes and go to the army in high rates. After the extremist Jerusalem Faction went wild for two weeks and no one stopped them, we decided that we also want to express our feelings. It is about time that the state will take care of those who are maintaining it,” she said.
“We demand an equal enforcement of the law, intervention of the state and going back on the track that the Scroll of Independence showed us – with equal right citizens and putting an end for us surrendering to the extremists,” Wharton added.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.