In a rare move, an ultra-Orthodox protestor sat in front of the cameras in Jerusalem on Saturday night in order to explain the position of haredim protesting for the past few weeks against the opening of a parking lot in the capital on Shabbat.
The protestor, who identified himself only as Moshe, spoke about one of the less violent demonstrations this week: "Within the haredi community it was stressed that the protest will only be for adults. The haredi community in general does not use violence.
"The violence last week and until now was only from youth on the fringe. No one has picked up a rock or thrown anything in the haredi community, even not objects such as were described in the secular press, like diapers and such."
"We come, we yell 'Shabbes' (Yiddish for Sabbath) because it is painful for us. This is what we will continue to do. What the lead scholar of the religious court tells us," explained Moshe.
Ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem. Only for adults. (Photo: Reuters)
When asked when the protest would subside, Moshe said, "As long as the lead scholar of the religious court tells us to go (and protest), we will. (Jerusalem Mayor) Nir Barkat should come off his tree.
"Nir Barkat also wants to close the deal. He needs a parking lot on the Sabbath? Really, there aren't any parking spots? There are even now. What was the case under (former Mayor Ehud) Olmert and under (former Mayor Uri) Lupolianski? The option exists that they don't need to fight against the haredim at all. Nir Barkat simply climbed into a tree and doesn't know how to come down."
In reference to the protests in the middle of the week, the haredi protestor said, "That really was nothing. There wasn't anything. Some group wanted to make a scene, so they went out, set trash cans ablaze and then ran off." He explained that those same perpetrators did not show up at the protest, and only sought to make trouble for the haredi community.
According to Moshe, the ultra-Orthodox community has some gripes against the police. "There are issues with some of the police who used violence. Nothing can be said. The broad public was calm and wanted to get to Karta parking lot. The police arrested them here on Nevi'im Street some distance from the location. There was no violence; there wasn't anything. They simply didn't let the public go to the Karta parking lot."
'Violence is disturbing'
Despite the disturbances seen at the protest, it can be said with certainty that there was significantly less violence than in previous protests of the sort. For instance, the protestors did not through items at the police and less haredim were arrested.
This is not by chance. In the past, mainly haredi youth protested, and not adults as has been the case in the recent demonstrations. Furthermore, the haredi leadership has emphasized in their publications distributed to the public that violence has no place in the protests.
"I am pleased that violence is leaving our streets. I think everyone is happy about that," said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus (United Torah Judaism). "It isn't just me; it's all the rabbis and even the haredi community that doesn't want this violence. The violence is disturbing. That's the reality."