Hundreds of haredim riot against Karta lot in capital

Demonstration marks 100 weeks since municipality opened parking lot on Shabbat; one arrested; police disperse demonstration.

Haredi riot 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Haredi riot 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Close to a thousand ultra-Orthodox men held a late Saturday afternoon demonstration against the desecration of Shabbat, marking 100 weekends since the Karta parking lot in the capital began to open on the Jewish day of rest.
Police repeatedly stopped the participants from blocking the intersection of Strauss and Hanevi’im, on the southern border of the haredi area in central Jerusalem.
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The area resonated with yells of “Shabbes” aimed at security personnel, photographers and cars driving by, as well as at a handful of secular counter-demonstrators on the other side of the street.
Police pushing back the front line of protesters nearing Rehov Hanevi’im were subject to the occasional cry of “Nazis,” or reminded of the verse that “those who desecrate [Shabbat] shall die,” but retained their cool and avoided giving the demonstrators the desired pretext to up the level of violence, that was largely limited to pushing.
Police reported that stones were thrown at them, though nobody was wounded and no arrests were made at that stage.
The demonstration was headlined by Rabbi David Kahn, head of the Mea She’arim-based Toldot Aharon hassidic sect whose golden kaftans stood out in the sea of black coats.
It was Kahn who had issued the orders in advance of the rally that there should be no violence or rock-throwing, and that the event – called for 5:15 p.m. – would be for half an hour only. Kahn, who arrived at the demonstration a bit after it began, kept away from the line of confrontation with police, and at 6:15 turned back and led his hassidim toward the Toldot Aharon yeshiva, officially wrapping the demonstration.
Many protesters, however, remained in place and continued to chant and to shout accusations at the police and media. One demonstrator was arrested for assaulting police.
These rallies have taken place every week since the Karta parking lot was opened two years ago. On recent Saturdays, there have been attempts to block Rehov Hanevi’im, while secular activists have been keeping vigil to ensure the freedom of movement on the central route, parallel to Jaffa Road, which has long been closed due to the light rail project.
To Michael, a Toldot Aharon hassid walking away from the rally, it was clear that violence against police was prohibited, as per the instructions of his rabbi.
“The Torah forbids us to throw stones at Jews, and especially, God forbid, on Shabbat, which would be a desecration of the day,” he said, blaming the police presence for the scuffles and the verbal assaults. “There will always be those at the fringes of these events who try to heat things up,” he said. “What we are ordered to do is protest the desecration of the sanctity of the day, and that is what we did [with our chants].”
Asked whether such an event, which compelled police to come to ensure the safety of motorists and reporters, was not causing massive Shabbat desecration in itself, Michael replied: “I really can’t say, that is the kind of question that our rabbis decide upon.”