After 'Free J'lem' rally, both sides remain steadfast

After Free Jerusalem r

haredi coercion protest jerusalema (photo credit: )
haredi coercion protest jerusalema
(photo credit: )
A day after more than 1,500 people gathered in downtown Jerusalem to protest recent violent Shabbat demonstrations by members of the capital's haredi community in recent weeks, neither haredi leaders nor organizers of the protest gave any indication they would relent. "Not at all," said Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld, whose group, the Council for the Protection of the Sanctity of Shabbat, is one of those leading the opposition to hi-tech giant Intel's operation of its Har Hotzvim factory on the Jewish day of rest - a central grievance cited by Saturday night's protesters as a reason for the rally. "If anything," he added, "[the march] will add more people to our cause." Rosenfeld explained that some of the signs carried by protesters, including, "Iran is here" or the phrase "religious coercion," were offensive to members of the haredi community, and would mobilize further demonstrations. "Since [Jerusalem Mayor Nir] Barkat entered office there's been a bad atmosphere in the city and relations between haredi and secular Jerusalemites have further deteriorated," said Rosenfeld. He said another demonstration - similar to those seen on Saturdays at Intel or previously at the Karta municipal parking lot - was being planned for the middle of the week, and would be larger than the toned-down crowds seen at the Intel plant over the past two weeks. "We're planning a large demonstration," he said. "[Saturday night's protest] has no affect on that." Nonetheless, Nir Pereg, a spokesman from the Forum for a Free Jerusalem, a coalition of various groups that organized Saturday night's protest, said his group "wasn't scared of the haredi response." "The rally wasn't for them," Pereg said. "It was for us, for our community and for our leaders." Pereg added that his group had nothing against the haredi community's way of life, saying, "we respect their right to live as they choose. What we're asking is that they respect our right to do so." "We're not going into their neighborhoods and opening up stores on Shabbat," he added. "Why can't they let us live quietly in our neighborhoods?" Pereg also said that the rally was proof that Jerusalemites were becoming more and more vocal in their disapproval of the violent demonstrations. "This was the biggest rally we've ever had," he said. "It was our third since the Karta lot [demonstrations] began and every time, we've had larger and larger crowds." "It's simply more Jerusalemites saying enough!" he added. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Municipality on Sunday said they had removed electronic ads for the weekend "Hamshush'alayim" event series - a play on the Hebrew words for "long weekend" and "Jerusalem" - that began in the capital this past weekend, after city council members from United Torah Judaism complained that the ads promoted Shabbat desecration. While the municipality attributed the ads to a "copy error," the city council members demanded that they be both removed and that an official statement be released, explaining that they were published inadvertently. The council members further hinted that the municipal coalition could be compromised should their demands not be met. Mayor Barkat, for his part, released a statement on Sunday calling on all city residents to move beyond their differences and work together for the betterment of the city. "We must live in Jerusalem alongside each other," Barkat said. "The partnership between us is larger than it seems, and if we would only unify, and treat one another with mutual respect, we'd succeed in facing the major challenges that stand before Jerusalem."