Hundreds of haredim riot in Jaffa

Rioters say archaeological dig desecrates graves, 5 policemen injured.

Haredi riots in Jaffa 311 (photo credit: Dan Morgan)
Haredi riots in Jaffa 311
(photo credit: Dan Morgan)
Jaffa was the site of one of the most violent clashes between police and haredim in recent memory Wednesday, as hundreds of haredim took to the streets of the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Ajami, throwing rocks and bottles and setting trash cans alight to protest a construction project they say will disturb Jewish remains.
Five police officers were injured in the melee, as were two cameramen, one of whom was struck in the head by a blunt object wielded by a rioter.
In addition, an Israel Radio reporter was forced to seek protection from the mob inside a police van.
The rioters repeatedly yelled “Nazis!” “Hitler” and “Eichmann” at police officers, and on a few occasions hurled racial slurs at darkskinned officers. Police repeatedly used force to push and control the demonstrators, who blocked the streets of Jaffa and attacked dozens of officers.
Police made at least 15 arrests during the disturbances, which were attended by head of the Edah Haredit’s rabbinical court Rabbi Tuvia Weiss, who encouraged the rioters and led a curse against workers at the dig, set to be the site of a luxury residential project.
The demonstration began outside the project, on the corner of Yefet and Louis Pasteur streets, before police pushed it down to the intersection of Yehuda Margoza.
Teachers at the St. Michael’s School on the corner of Yehuda Margoza locked students inside the school long after class was let out, waiting for the disturbances to subside so pupils could go home safely.
Police, who said the demonstration was illegal, maintained a strong presence, with dozens of officers from the border patrol and the YASSAM riot police unit, as well as mounted officers and plainclothes police who circled the crowd trying to isolate the leaders of the disturbance.
Throughout the riots, a police helicopter hovered above and a water cannon truck sat ready to disperse the crowds if things got out of hand.
Eventually, the protesters moved along and the remaining ones were picked up by a series of buses at a public park further down Yefet Street.
One demonstrator, who referred to himself simply as “a Jew,” said “the digging poses a threat to the entire State of Israel. That could be your grandfather’s grave.”
The protester added that “in Israel, they respect graves of all religions, and especially Arab graves. Only when it’s Jewish graves do they say it’s ok to dig.
“They’re treating us like goyim [non-Jews] would,” a different protester shouted.
The riots came only a few days after hundreds of haredim protested near the site. Following the disturbances, the Israel Antiquities Authority reported that an excavation of late-Ottoman period buildings had been ransacked by vandals, causing irreversible damage.