Eda Haredit calls to tone down protests

Jerusalem rabbis instruct their faithful to refrain from spitting, throwing rocks and blocking roads.

Haredim riot in Mea Shearim 248.8 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Haredim riot in Mea Shearim 248.8
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Violence on the streets of Jerusalem may subside after the Eda Haredit's rabbinical leadership issued a notice Wednesday evening to tone down the intensity of the demonstrations. Rabbi Tuvia Weiss, head of the Eda Haredit's rabbinical court, decreed that use of violence "severely hurts the battle for the sanctity of the Shabbat." Weiss and the other members of the court called on their faithful to refrain from "blocking roads," "throwing rocks," "spitting" or venturing farther than Rehov Shivtei Yisrael, which separates the haredi neighborhoods of Beit Yisrael, Mea She'arim and Geula from the Carta parking lot, the flashpoint of the current unrest. The Eda Haredit is a conglomerate of zealous, insular hassidic movements that include Satmar, Toldot Aharon, Breslav and Dushinsky. In the latest development in an ongoing series of violent incidents, a group of haredim attacked an Arab taxi on Tuesday night at 2 a.m. The attack was seen as an act of revenge after another cab driver, purported to be an Arab as well, hit a haredi protester with his taxi while speeding through the area during riots on Sunday night. Shmuel Poppenheim, a spokesman for the Eda Haredit, said his organization was opposed to the use of violence, especially against non-Jews. The Eda Haredit is opposed to the Zionist movement and the establishment of the State of Israel in part because of its use of violence against non-Jews, which is seen as dangerous incitement and a revolt against God. Poppenheim instead blamed members of a yeshiva for newly religious men affiliated with a stream of Breslav Hassidism. "Those guys look haredi because they dress like haredim but they aren't," said Poppenheim. "They are responsible for all the violence. We are not a violent people." Poppenheim said that the head of the yeshiva had a "strange messianic" justification for using violence against non-Jews which is diametrically opposed to the Eda Haredit's way. Almost three months ago, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat decided to open the Carta parking lot, a move which sparked a series of demonstrations, as it was seen by the haredi community as disrupting the status quo between religious and secular in the capital. Since then, the weekend demonstrations in Jerusalem have gotten steadily more intense, with at least two haredi demonstrators still hospitalized with serious injuries they suffered during the protests of the past week. On Sunday night police used tear gas, stun grenades and shot live ammunition to disperse crowds of several hundred haredim who gathered to prevent police from removing the body of a stabbing victim for autopsy, which is considered by some Jews as a desecration of the dead. In the US a group of haredim led by Satmar hassidim staged a demonstration across the street from the Israeli Consulate in New York City in protest against "the Zionist entity's brutal treatment of haredim."