Haredim protest Shabbat desecration

Hundreds of demonstrators hurl rocks, chant, shove police officers; police attempt to disperse crowds.

haredi protest jerusalem 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
haredi protest jerusalem 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Masses of haredim demonstrated and hurled rocks at police in Jerusalem on Saturday in an ongoing protest against the opening of a parking lot on Shabbat to accommodate weekend visitors to the Old City. The protesters chanted that anyone who desecrates Shabbat "must die." To police seeking to rein them in, they warned, "You will burn in the fire of hell!" The level of violence at the afternoon protest was lower than it was the previous weekend, police said. Setting the stage for further violent clashes, however, activists from the Eda Haredit were planning a major midweek demonstration in Jerusalem against the desecration of Shabbat. In the latest protests, several hundred haredim, yelling "Shabbos, Shabbos," "Nazis" and "anti-Semites," tried to break into the parking lot opposite the Jaffa Gate, but were forcibly prevented from entering the area by police, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. The protesters intermittently hurled rocks at police, as well as at passing vehicles elsewhere in the city, he said. There were no injuries reported in the altercation, and one demonstrator was arrested on the scene. Last weekend, scores of protesters were arrested. After Shabbat ended, several garbage bins in the city's Mea Shearim neighborhood were set on fire. The protests began a month ago, after the city opened the municipal parking lot on Shabbat, free of charge, to accommodate weekend visitors. Seeking to reach a compromise, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat subsequently arranged to open the Carta parking lot opposite the walls of the Old City - a private lot that is also further away from haredi neighborhoods - but the move failed to quash the protests. Barkat spokesman Evyatar Elad said Saturday that the decision to open the parking lot on Shabbat would stand. "The mayor is committed to the safety of the public," Elad said, noting that some 370 motorists used the car park on Saturday. The original decision to open the parking garage on Shabbat was made at the urging of police, who said that a lack of parking around the Old City was leading to double-parked cars on major city thoroughfares, posing a safety hazard.