'Jerusalem Taliban's' finest hour
Extremists in ultra-Orthodox public, who in normal days are considered marginal and problematic, gain much fame due to gay pride parade. Their violent actions and mainly their promises to use violence to prevent 'abomination parade' unite haredi street to an extreme and unrelenting position. This week , Jerusalem District Police commander learned this on his own flesh
Hamas from Beit Shemesh will block the entrance road to Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Taliban will manage the things from here, and the extreme right will block the Ayalon highway - these were the words used by an ultra-Orthodox resident of Meah Shearim, who is close to the haredi leadership, regarding the actions planned for the day of the gay pride parade in Jerusalem.
In normal days those groups mentioned mark the extreme points away from the haerdi public's mainstream. Everyone who is familiar with the situation, and has heard of their actions, especially in the past few years, and many other people as well, have distanced themselves from the violent actions of these groups
And then came the gay pride parade. If until this point they were renounced and marginalized by the general public, suddenly they became the heroes of the protest. Up until this point the extremists acted only in the local arena and in a limited scope.
But suddenly, they were faced by a new challenge on a national scale. Now they received their backing from their top rabbis to act in complete devotion. The past week, has been, without a doubt, their "finest hour."
During the past weeks, they gained strength, momentum, increased their numbers, made new connections, and received a strong trigger to organize. Many participated in the riots, but more than anything, many more people came to see the action.
Last Thursday, even during the afternoon hours reports were circulating within the haredi streets that "the demonstration tonight is going to be a real war." The fanatics promised blood and fire, and many came to see if they were up to the task.
All factions and streams of the haredi public is opposed to the parade being held in Jerusalem, but form that to making the police work for hours, hurling rocks at them, wounding some of them, blocking roads, hurling firecrackers, setting garbage bins on fire, and distribute inflammatory messages, the way is long, but in this case, the interests have been combined. The haredi public is in need of their extremists.
"There is nothing to do, someone needs to do the dirty work," said Haim, a young haredi man, standing on the streets as the smell of burning garbage bins filled the air from the recent riots.
Rabbis brush Franco off
On Thursday night, and until the early hours of the morning, Jerusalem District Commander Ilan Franco tried, together with his Jerusalem commanders to keep the peace.
At around 11 p.m., after three hours of riots, Franco understood he had no choice but to announce something to the media. In an improvised press conference, he announced that "the decision whether to allow the parade will be given on Sunday."
He spent about three minutes with reporters and then said he had to return to command the arena.
Haredi protests in Jerusalem (Photo: Haim Zach)
"If Franco will approve the parade, it will be remembered in eternal disgrace. The haredi public will never forget that," was a sentence which was said over and over in conversations with haredis over the past week.
One of the men who arrived at the riots attacked: "Franco is speculating with the blood of people. He could have calmed the area down long ago. Why does he come to hit people? What did we do to him? Why did he enter Bar Ilan street with horses even before people got there? He made all this mess. He wanted to hit us for no reason. There is no other explanation."
The hostility between the police and the haredi public has never been so high. Calling cops "Nazis" during the riots has turned to be a routine.
A few days before last Purim, top haredis met with officers from the Jerusalem police in order to deal with the problem of "shababnikim," haredi youths who were rejected from the system, and have come to misbehave in the parties instead of celebrating respectfully.
"They came with 200 officers, motor cycles, etc. We begged him (Franco) to do us a favor and make them leave, and our public will help him out," said one of the haredi leaders. He told us "I don't work in the 'modesty patrol.' He didn't want to help us" this week the same top haredis were rejoicing at Franco's distress.
This past Saturday evening, Franco himself needed some help. After four days of fighting, he calls the head of the haredi Court of Justice Rabbi Yitzhak Tuvya Weiss and asks him to "give me just one day." After less than an hour, a loudspeaker announcement came out asking not to protest that night. But the fire had already spread out.
Roads were blocked in the Ayalon and Road 4. In Kiryat Moshe and Givat Mordechai garbage bins were set ablaze, and that is in addition to the places already burning for a few days – Bar Ilan street, the Shabbat Square, and Shivtey Yisrael street.
The haredim in Jerusalem feel that Franco is not with them in the same state of mind and "is profiting from displaying power at the expense of the haredi public instead of solving the issues."
Last week, Franco arrived at the home of the leader of the Lithuanian faction, Rabbi Joseph Shalom Elyashiv, and tried to persuade him to help and calm the atmosphere.
The Rabbi opened the Torah and pointed to where the objections to the parade originate from and said: "All of the actions are blasphemous. Do you think for one moment that I will tell me followers it is wrong to protest? This will happen under no circumstances." One day earlier, Rabbi Yitzhak Tuvya Weiss told Franco: "In the protest last week there was an order to clam the crowd. This time I will not say anything."
However, mainly because of the large scale objections of the rabbis, it is interesting to note the Admor of Gur, Rabbi Yaakov Alter, who leads the largest Hassidic crowd in Israel with tens of thousands of followers.
The rabbi had received numerous requests to employ his "gurg'es" (a nickname to the Gur followers) for the effort to fight the parade. But despite all the frequent requests, the Rabbi stood his ground and did not make any supportive announcement.
In the "Hamodia" newspaper, the paper of the Agudat Yisrael, no word was mentioned on the subject – not positive and not negative because "in Gur we do not talk about it. The subject is taboo. No matter what," knowledgeable people say.