Thousands of haredim protest in Jerusalem
Some 30,000 members of all ultra-Orthodox factions flock to Bar Ilan Road for mass prayer in protest of decision to open parking lot in capital on Shabbat. Some attempt to attack journalists. 'If we had a haredi mayor this never would have happened,' one of the demonstrators says
Some 150 haredi men gathered near the disputed Karta parking lot and held a quiet prayer in the area.
Later in the evening, about 100 haredi men tried to block the Herzl Boulevard in the capital. The protestors placed iron rods taken from the light rail construction site along the road. Police forces dispatched to the area removed the protestors and reopened to road to traffic.
Most of the protestors gathered Friday evening between the Ohaley Yosef and Avinadav Junctions, which are some 100 meters (328 feet) apart, chanting "Shabes". A sign reading "Keep and remember the holy Shabbat" was placed near the protestors.
At a certain stage, protestors began running towards the television photographers and reporters, crying out, "The desecrater will be put to death."
As the journalists escaped, the crowd spat and them and knocked on the windows of their vehicles. Police forces removed the protestors from the area.
The rally was held in protest of "the war declared by Jerusalem's mayor on the holy Shabbat."
Bar Ilan Street, Friday evening (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The Jerusalem Police reinforced their forces in the capital for fear that the rally would turn violent.
"We estimate that there will be no violent riots," the official said, "but we are preparing for such a possibility. As long as the protest is legitimate and organized we will allow them to hold it, but the moment the riots turn violent we will show zero tolerance."
Pashkavil (wall posters) calling on the haredi public to take part in the Bar Ilan Road protest were hung in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. "In light of the heinous scheme of the people of Sodom to contaminate the Holy City, we will convene for a prayer and crying out rally in the presence of an enormous crowd," the posters said.
Hundreds of leaflets were distributed on the streets, pointing a finger at the Gur Hasidim for supporting Mayor Nir Barkat in the municipal elections.
Photographers warned not to take pictures
Shloimi, a haredi youth, told Ynet, "If we had a haredi mayor, Uri Lupolianski or Meir Porush, this would never had happened."
He said he had come from the Bait Vagan neighborhood in order to take part in the rally. "It took me nearly an hour to walk here, but it's important," he clarified.
Meir, another yeshiva student, told Ynet that he believed the demonstration would not turn violent, but warned that the photographers sent to the area were creating provocations and should be careful.
"We (the haredim) have not had a demonstration for a long time and have not been given the opportunity to express our feelings. If one photographer takes our picture, people won't think twice," he warned.
The prayer was held by the ultra-Orthodox community and the Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat and received the verbal backing of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of the haredi-Sephardic community, and by Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, leader of the Lithuanian public.
Another protest is planned for Saturday evening, near the disputed Safra and parking lots. The secular public is also expected to demonstrate in the area at the same time. The police have approved the participation of 1,000 people in the rally.
Efrat Weiss contributed to this report