Saturday's riots
Photo: AP

Shas official to haredim: Protest, but don't riot

Following heated weekend in capital over opening of disputed parking lot on Shabbat, both camps attempting to lower the flames of tension. Meretz deputy mayor says 'proud the seculars are starting to understand that we mustn't keep quiet'

After a heated weekend in Jerusalem, and despite a municipality declaration that it will keep a disputed parking lot open on Shabbat, it seems that the violent protests will not last for long.


Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men protested in the capital on Friday evening, while Saturday saw a much more violent protest which left one haredi man seriously injured, a six-year-old boy with an injury to his head, five police officers wounded and 57 haredim arrested.


Friday's prayer rally and protest held on Bar Ilan Road on Friday was not expected to turn violent. Out of the tens of thousands of protestors who came from all haredi factions, several young men "marked" the media representatives, whose presence they viewed as defying. But apart from shouts, threats and spitting, no unusual incidents were recorded.


Saturday evening's violent demonstration was also at a smaller scale than the one which took place about two weeks ago with the opening of the Safra parking lot.


Then, hundreds of members of the Eda Haredit – a union of anti-Zionist Hasidim – rioted and threw stones, bottles and dirty diapers at police officers.


This Saturday, the same hundreds of Eda Haredit protestors arrived at the demonstration site in the hopes of igniting the situation. But the police deployed in the area advance and blocked the protestors behind barricades at the Mea Shearim plaza, preventing the protestors from taking to the city's main routes.


At the end of the day, the Eda Haredit even distributed leaflets calling on the protestors to return to their homes. Members of the City Council, seculars and haredim, are also working to lower the flames.


"I hope riots like the ones we saw yesterday will not repeat themselves," said Shlomi Atias, chairman of the Shas faction at the City Council.


"Whoever wants to pray or protest – it's legitimate and it's their right. But there are ways to do it. It was very painful for me to see what happened yesterday, and I will consult the rabbis on how to proceed from here. I hope that, God willing, peace will be restored."

'God willing, peace will be restored' (Photo: AFP)


Secular council members, who expressed their satisfaction over the great response to a rally held in support of the decision to open the parking lot, practiced restraint as well in favor of maintaining relations with the ultra-Orthodox community in the capital.


"I feel very good, but I am also sad and sorry, because this wasn't a victory or a loss," said Deputy Mayor Yosef (Pepe) Alalo of the Meretz faction. "I am very proud about the fact that the seculars are beginning to understand that we must take things into our hands instead of keeping silent.


"The ball is now in the haredi court, and it's very difficult to know what will happen there because of the internal struggle. The violent protest has nothing to do with the parking lot or with us. It stems from lack of leadership in the haredi community."


A slight improvement was recorded Sunday morning in the condition of the haredi man who was seriously injured during Saturday's protest in the Mea Shearim neighborhood after falling off a fence. He was hospitalized at the Hadassah Ein Kerem's neurosurgical department.


Police officials clarified that the officers blocking the protest had nothing to do with the man's injury.


פרסום ראשון: 06.28.09, 09:50
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