Photo: Rafi Kotz
Jerusalem was the scene of two protests last Saturday. The first was a giant display of unity that brought together the different shades of Jerusalem’s Orthodox community for a Shabbat prayer at Bar-Ilan Streets. Estimates refer to 40,000 people who prayed ahead of Shabbat. The masses returned home quietly, and with the exception of a few verbal exchanges with journalists the event ended peacefully.
The second protest featured haredi rioters, a marginal minority, who are insignificant compared to the participants in the first protest. The mob that responded to the police’s declaration regarding an “iron fist” policy showed full cooperation between law enforcers, lawbreakers, and democracy’s watchdog. We saw a great idyll bringing together bottle throwers and riot police, with media outlets that wanted to see action getting large doses of it.
Ultra-Orthodox protest against municipality's intention to keep parking lot open on Shabbat continues with resumed riots against police arrests. Some of capital's streets closed off after protestors set trash bins on fire
The entire Israeli media world chose, and rightfully so, the images of the cooperative rioters rather than the images of those praying in the earlier protest.
The frustration that overwhelms the ultra-Orthodox street at this time does not stem from the anti-Orthodox and mercilessly inciting media campaign. The haredi sense of a missed opportunity stems from two reasons: The majority of people in the community have internalized a while ago that any haredi struggle for our rights shows significant achievements; however, every campaign aimed at re-educating our secular brothers had virtually zero success.
The Orthodox Jewish community, which showed painful and angry restraint in the face of the Pride Parade last week in Jerusalem, remembers well the incredible success of the protest of 500,000 people praying silently outside the Supreme Court. This protest changed something because it was fully commensurate with the spirit of Judaism; prayer and silence, without any political, belligerent or zealous statements. That peaceful protest gave rise to a decade and a half of understandings and agreements in Jerusalem via civil dialogue.
Seeking greater secular understanding
Jerusalem desperately needs this quiet, because of its inner life, because of its tourists, because of its international image, because of its status as Israel’s capital, and mostly because of the unity among all those who love the city.
The Orthodox Jerusalem, which often shows silent acceptance, will only do so through silence. We will never see a statement about some kind of understanding that has a hint of undermining our ancient tradition. We swallow the bitter pill and we keep silent. What outraged the peaceful Orthodox community in respect to the parking lot issue was not the fact they were opened, but rather, the press conferences and harsh voices emerging from the mayor’s office.
The sane Orthodox majority expects his secular brethren to show greater understanding to its ideological distress, and seeks to at least maintain the symbols, if not the entire pot. This majority hopes that a concession will be perceived as such by the seculars, even if the Orthodox do not have the ability to openly declare it, because this majority desperately wants the peace of coexistence. It does not hope to eat hummus along with its secular brethren at Abu Gosh. Yet it does hope for peaceful coexistence that would perpetuate the quiet that prevailed in the city in recent years.
Even if you did not feel it, we showed restraint many times. We made many concessions for the sake of peaceful life in the city. You did the same. No home is ideal if there are no concessions, restraints, and a strong desire to coexist peacefully and quietly
The leaders of this city, headed by Nir Barkat, have the holy duty to return the situation to what it used to be, and to engage in a process of self-reflection: Is it worthwhile to stir conflict among the city’s residents for the sake of 450 vehicles of central Israel residents who travel to Jerusalem on Shabbat and park at the Karta parking lot?