Protestors say rabbis support violence

"If we throw stones and police get hurt, then the parade will be canceled."

haredi riots 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haredi riots 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite calls for restraint from prominent haredi rabbis, many ultra-Orthodox residents in Jerusalem are vowing to ratchet up the violence ahead of Friday's Gay Pride Parade. "Only through violence will the parade stop," said Simon, 22, a haredi student from Mea She'arim. "If we throw stones and one of the police gets hurt, then they'll say they can't control the violence and the parade will be cancelled." Ya'acov, 23, agreed. "There was a lot of talk, and that was great, but now we have no other choice. If the parade goes on, terrible things will happen." Usually a hub of pedestrian traffic, Mea She'arim's Shabbat Square on Tuesday was filled with the remnants of riots against the march. A charred car etched with Jewish stars and anti-parade slogans lay overturned at one corner of the square; crossing lights were shattered and glass littered the streets. While some bystanders photographed the scene with their cell phones, others contributed to the spectacle. As members of the crowd cheered, a dozen haredi men pushed a trash bin into oncoming traffic and lit it on fire. "If they [homosexuals] call what they're doing freedom of expression, then I also call what we're doing - burning cars and such - freedom of expression," said Uri, 25, as the fire burned behind him. Yet there were those who preferred a subtler form of protest, saying that their rabbis would not approve of violence. "Everybody is against violence," said Yitzhak, 26. "Violence is a terrible act, and the rabbis are not in favor it." "Rabbi Yitzhak Weiss said that we should not do anything which would endanger life," said Charles Taylor, a haredi man with family in the neighborhood. "The ones who are burning and breaking things are unruly youths from Zion Square. They're not from the neighborhood." On Monday night the chairman of the Badatz (haredi rabbinical court), Rabbi Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss, said that while he supported the protests, they should be conducted without violence, and they should end by 11 p.m. However, for some haredi protesters, his call only encouraged more aggressive tactics. "The rabbis support this," said Simon. "It is not that [Rabbi Weiss] said don't endanger lives; he said not to endanger lives from our side." "The rabbis explicitly said to protest," Ya'acov said. "While they didn't say exactly that they wanted this kind of protest, it was understood." Although opinions differed about what form of protest was most appropriate, everybody who spoke to The Jerusalem Post agreed that they were necessary. "We're talking about a group of people with psychological problems," said Yitzhak of the gay marchers. "And rather then being ashamed of this, they instead decide to do things to promote it."