Rabbi: Seculars ignited Shabbat protests
Haredim at odds over necessity of demonstrations against opening of Jerusalem parking lot open on weekends: While some Eda Haredit members say desecration of holy day not worth protest, chairman of Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat clarifies that 'seculars brought it upon themselves'
Shmuel Chaim Pappenheim, considered one of the faction's unofficial spokesmen, has slammed the decision to resume the protests against the operation of the Karta parking lot on weekends, claiming that most of the community members are against them.
On the other hand, the chairman of the Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat is in favor of the protests and accuses the secular public of "bringing them upon itself".
According to Pappenheim, the former editor of the Eda Haredit's official journal, while in the past only the central stream of the haredi public was against the protests – now most members of the extreme faction oppose them as well.
He explained that Eda Haredit leader, Rabbi Tuvia Weiss, is almost the only one among the faction's rabbis and leaders who supports such protests, and that most of the participants do it in order to defend his honor.
Pappenheim says that only several dozen Eda Haredit members have been protesting against the Karta parking lot every Shabbat for the past two years.
This past weekend, following intense pressure, the Toldos Aharon Rebbe decided to lead the protestors for several minutes, and this prompted hundreds of his followers to join the demonstration.
"They nagged him constantly, also because of what happened at the slaughterhouse in Mea Shearim last week, and he agreed to go out and protest so as not to humiliate Rabbi Weiss," says Pappenheim.
"But in principle, the Toldos Aharon Rebbe – and many of the Eda Haredit members – doesn't appreciate these things. He understands that the lawlessness and desecration of Shabbat are not worth it."
Pappenheim believes that the desecration of Shabbat in places like the Karta parking lot, which are not located within or near haredi neighborhoods, is no reason for such a protest as the public has become more sober, and the influence of the radicals – even within the Eda Haredit faction, has significantly dropped.
He adds, however, that any discussion of additional centers of Shabbat desecration, like the plan to operate new movie theaters in Jerusalem on weekends, only play into the hands of those radicals.
Those opposing the protests say the organizers are driven by ulterior motives, such as the desire to impress and please the Eda Haredit's potential donors abroad, who are much more radical than them, or simply young people's boredom during the summer months and long Shabbat, which makes them to look for "action" on the streets.
'They asked for it'
Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld, chairman of the Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat, ruled out both possibilities, claiming that "the seculars are the ones who ignited it".
He said a counter-protest held last week on Neviim Street, along with a slaughterhouse raid in Mea Shearim and the two-year anniversary of the opening of the Karta parking lot on Shabbat, are what led to the renewed protest and "caused all the mess".
"One cannot run wild without any basis, and thank God the seculars have taken care of that," said Rosenfeld. "Until last week there was nothing, only some 20 to 50 quiet protestors, but then the situation was inflamed, and then the police and Tax Authority arrived at the slaughterhouse and inflamed it further."
He warned that "we're soon entering the Bein Hazmanim period (yeshiva vacation days), so there's another reason for it to grow."
And yet Rabbi Rosenfeld believes that the mass protest, which was attended by hundreds of haredim, was a one-time thing, and that this week the protest will return to its limited form.
He said it all depended on the police. "If they want to calm the situation down, they'll practice restraint when dealing with the protestors, rather than using force."
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