Police keep J'lem street open despite haredi protest

150 protest civilian traffic on Shabbat, throw rocks, block traffic at intersection of Rehov Hanevi’im and Rehov Strauss.

haredim 311 (photo credit: John Backtane)
haredim 311
(photo credit: John Backtane)
Haredi riots aimed at preventing civilian traffic on Rehov Hanevi’im reached a new height on Saturday afternoon, when over a hundred men of various sects tried to scare secular residents into steering clear of the Jerusalem thoroughfare, shouting “Shabbes,” pelting cars with stones and spitting on passersby.
At least one secular man was arrested after being accused by police of “provocation.”
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The man was driving his car on Rehov Hanevi’im when a large rock was thrown at the vehicle. He stepped out of the car and asked an officer why the police had shown up in such small numbers, faced with such a large and violent crowd.
He was told to “get out of here” or face arrest. When he said he had a right to use the road, he was handcuffed and taken away.
Police officers repeatedly pushed to the ground haredi men who were throwing themselves at the windshields of every passing car, while secular women who were dressed in a way considered immodest were spat upon.
Several of the most violent rioters were lightly injured, mostly because of falling or jumping on the cars passing by.
There were fewer than 10 police officers on the scene, in three patrol cars. At the riot’s climax at around 6:30 p.m., the number of haredi protesters reached about 150.
Overwhelmed by the large crowd, officers became increasingly irritable as the riot continued, but they did not use crowd dispersal means.
Around 7 p.m. there was no sign of the riot dying down, and the sole man to have been handcuffed and taken away was the secular driver.
Every time a protester tried to block cars from driving through the street, the officers who came to pull him away were besieged by the angry mob with shouts of “Nazis” and “anti-Semites,” and they were also spat upon.
A Christian who lives at the Anglican International School Jerusalem, located near the intersection of Rehov Hanevi’im and Rehov Strauss, caught on camera a clip where she was threatened with death unless she stopped filming.
She told The Jerusalem Post that riots on Saturday have become a regular occurrence, but that this one reached a new height of violence and a record number of protesters.
She stood on the sidelines, where several secular people carefully looked on and occasionally applauded when a car managed to pass through the mob. Officers repeatedly asked onlookers not to take pictures with their phones.
One officer who accused secular bystanders of stoking the flames told this reporter: The haredi protesters “are idiots, you know they’re idiots, so why are you coming out here?” A young haredi man who was looking on without taking part in the riot told the Post that the protesters were “hurting” when secular residents drove through the street on Shabbat because “they are Jews and you are also a Jew.”
“The ones who will be arrested are not us, but you. You just wait and see,” he calmly explained.
Since the closure of Jaffa Road due to the work on the Jerusalem Light Rail, Rehov Hanevi’im has become one of the central arteries for traffic into the city center.
According to an agreement between haredi leaders and the municipality, Rehov Strauss, a dominantly haredi street, is closed on Shabbat with police roadblocks at the point where it intersects Hanevi’im.
Hanevi’im serves as an alternative to the unusable Jaffa Road.
But in recent months, haredim have begun to come out before the end of Shabbat in an effort to push the “boundary” between the secular and the haredi Jerusalem further south.
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby said that between 50 to 150 haredim have been protesting at the intersection for the past few months. Police consider it a “gathering” rather than a protest, and therefore the demonstrators are not required to request permission from the police to hold a legal demonstration.
Still, the police said they knew exactly when and where the protest would be, and sent a patrol each week to ensure that the road stayed open to traffic.
“If they try to block the street, we’ll get rid of them,” Ben Ruby said.
Haredim also renewed protests outside of the Karta parking lot, a parking lot in the Old City that was the site of large-scale demonstrations and violence two years ago when it was decided that the parking lot would stay open on Shabbat.
Two weeks ago, 80 haredim demonstrated at the parking lot, and one haredi man was arrested.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.