Haredim riot in J'lem over graves removal
Some 60 ultra-Orthodox protestors clash with police in capital's Shabbat Square demonstrating against relocation of tombs in Ashkelon hospital. Eda Haredit rally held in city's Geula neighborhood. Municipality says will halt services in several haredi neighborhoods due to violence against its employees
Some 60 haredim clashed with police officers on Sunday in Jerusalem's Shabbat Square while burning trash cans and shouting out against the removal of graves in Ashkelon and Jaffa. No injuries or arrests have been reported thus far.
In addition, a rally in being held in the capital's Geula neighborhood in protest against the removal of the graves in the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. Eda Haredit leader Rabbi Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss, as well as other rabbis, is scheduled to speak at the rally.
Sources in the community denied rumors of placing a curse on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Prime Minister's Office Director-General Eyal Gabay for their decision to remove the graves.
Dozens protest grave removal (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
The Jerusalem Municipality announced Sunday that it was halting its operations in several ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the city following violence directed at municipal workers.
The municipality stated that several employees were beaten during protests in the capital on Sunday, part of a long line of violent attacks against municipal workers and facilities by haredi protestors. The incidents include the blocking of roads, torching of trash cans, damaging sanitation vehicles, and attacking workers with sticks and stones.
The city has therefore instructed its employees to leave the neighborhoods and halt all activities until the violence stops and the threat on human life and property is lifted.
Mayor Nir Barkat said, "Jerusalem municipal workers are making great efforts to provide services for the neighborhoods' residents and help them, however the city will not hesitate to halt services in cases where the lives of employees are in danger. I expect haredi leadership to calm the community in order for us to restore municipal services back to routine operations."
Municipality spokesperson Gidi Shmerling told Ynet, "This isn't a punishment. Our aim is not to put our workers at risk." He clarified that all the services would be halted until the riots end.
'Another excuse to burn dustbins'
Jerusalem Council Member Yossi Deitsch (United Torah Judaism) slammed the municipality's decision. "The fact that the police are engaging in such a wide-scale collective punishment is a disgrace, and this is the second time it happens," he said. "It's the police's duty to deal with the phenomenon in a concrete manner rather than run away and shut down an entire area.
Burning trash cans in Jerusalem (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"I don't think collective punishment is needed because of a few protestors burning dustbins in Mea Shearim," he added. "I spoke to merchants today whose proceeds were close to nothing because no one can enter the neighborhood.
"They are not evacuting the trash. Why should a store owner suffer? What does this have to do with the woman and her small child waiting at a bus stop? I have never heard about such a phenomenon in any normal country."
"For us it's just another excuse to burn dustbins," said Moshe of the Eda Haredit movement. "If they won't evacuate the trash we have burning materials. This is a foolish move on their part."
He added that thousands of people were headed to the capital's Bar-Ilan Road. "Accordin to Jewish Law, what happened is a desecration of the dead. People here are shouting, 'Israel's graves must not be abandoned.'"
Meanwhile, Israel Antiquities Authority employees dug out most of the graves in the Barzilai Mecial Center. No Jewish tombs were found thus far. The workers are slated to complete the procedure during the night.
The archeologists in charge of the diggings revealed that most of the graves that have been dug are pagan and not Jewish. This was established according to the burial method and makeup of the stones.
A total of 47 haredim were arrested on Sunday after rioting and protesting against the removal of the graves, 17 of whom were brought for a remand hearing in the Kiryat Gat Magistrate's Court.
During the hearing the detainees turned their back to the judge and all but one refused to identify themselves. Some will face remand hearings on Monday while others will be released on Sunday night under restrictions.
Also on Sunday, Ashdod police prevented some 20 haredim from renting out a boat from the city's marina and sailing to Ashkelon to protest the relocation of graves. They were removed from the boat and told to return home, but were not arrested
Kobi Nahshoni and Ronen Medzini contributed to this report