Barkat voices his support for Intel

Intel protest reveals h

haredi intel 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
haredi intel 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Sunday evening expressed his unequivocal support for Intel's continued activity in the capital, a day after a violent haredi demonstration against the firm's work on Shabbat. "I am a believer in the status quo and coexistence within the capital. Intel has been working in Jerusalem for 24 years in this current framework, and there is no change in it," Barkat said at Intel during an inauguration ceremony for a new chip factory. "I have worked and shall continue to work to ensure the company's success and expansion, and to bring additional hi-tech factories to the capital, and I back and support Intel's activities in Jerusalem," he continued. Barkat proceeded to thank Intel for the goodwill gestures it has made toward all sectors in Jerusalem, including haredim, and expressed hope that the disparities would be resolved through talks. Also speaking at the event was Maxine Fassberg, general manager of Intel Israel, who thanked Barkat for his support, and rejected the rumors that Intel was considering closing its Jerusalem branch and leaving Israel altogether. Earlier on Sunday, an NGO promoting religious freedom and equality in Israel published findings showing that 76 percent of Jewish Israelis - and 93% of secular Israelis - believed haredi rabbis were spearheading religion-inspired conflicts in an effort to advance partisan haredi interests, and only 24% believed the recent orthodox riots in the capital were inspired by love of Israel and the wellbeing of society. In the Hidush survey conducted in September, 500 adult Israeli Jews were polled. No margin of error was cited. According to the survey, 53% said they believed police were being too soft on haredi rioters, whereas only 11% thought police were using excessive force. Presented with the statement "Some believe religious battles led by haredi rabbis are essential for the preservation of Judaism, while others think these battles serve only one stream of Judaism and the haredi rabbis' own interests," 74% agreed with the second half of the statement, saying that Judaism united Israelis, but haredi rabbis brought about a splintering of society. Hiddush CEO Rabbi lawyer Uri Regev said following the recent protests against the Intel Corporation's work on Shabbat that "the objection of ultra Orthodox Jews to minimal activity on Shabbat, which is essential for the production process, proves to what extent haredi leaders act out of narrow-minded interests and partisanship. It is hard not to notice the hypocrisy of haredi rabbis who fight against Intel only when the mayor is not one of their representatives. In order to fight a secular mayor, they are willing to endanger the economic standing and prestige of Israel throughout the world." "Calm has just been restored following the riots over the [Karta] parking lot [in Jerusalem] and now the haredi political and rabbinical leadership have found a new excuse to lead the entire orthodox public into conflict with most Israelis," Regev added. "Not only do the haredi rabbis do everything in their power to prevent their men from working and earning a living respectfully; now they are trying to prevent others from doing so. Only freedom of religion and equality can save the Israeli economy from the violent coercion of the haredim." Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld, from the Council for the Protection of the Sanctity of Shabbat, told Israel Radio on Sunday that Intel's decision to work on the Jewish day of rest constituted "anti-religious coercion." "There are dozens of masorti employees who would prefer not to work on Shabbat. The fact that there are weekend shifts in Intel forces dozens of people to work," he said. Rosenfeld said that Intel was "the first factory working on Shabbat, and there are religious neighborhoods here." The new Intel factory is located in Har Hotzvim, an industrial park surrounded by haredi neighborhoods. There are no residential buildings in the park. Regarding reports of violence by haredi rioters, Rosenfeld said "all rabbis from the Eda Haredit and other sects prohibit the use of violence and whoever acted in this manner did so despite our directives." "If Intel insists on operating during Shabbat we will have no choice but to protest," Rosenfeld said. "We cannot remain silent on this matter," he warned. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told Israel Radio that closing the Intel plant in Jerusalem on Shabbat would force "good citizens to leave the city." He added that the plant's operation on Shabbat would not change the status quo in the city. Intel's work on Shabbat consists of silicon processing, which must continue around the clock for technical reasons related to the quality of the material, a company official said. The company has been working on Saturdays in its facilities outside Jerusalem since its establishment in Israel 24 years ago. The plant inaugurated in Jerusalem on Sunday is the second manufacturing facility of Intel Corp. in Israel. Apart from another factory in Kiryat Gat, the company has four research and development facilities here, including Jerusalem. The department of the Jerusalem facility inaugurated on Sunday will finish the manufacturing process of microchips beginning in Kiryat Gat, after the chips are delivered to Jerusalem.