Mayor stoned in Jerusalem Shabbat war

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 13, 2009
Israeli police restrain two strictly-Orthodox men demonstrating against the Shabbat opening of a car park

Israeli police restrain two strictly-Orthodox men demonstrating against the Shabbat opening of a car park

The dispute over Shabbat in Jerusalem worsened this week when a group of Charedi men attacked Mayor Nir Barkat and stoned his car.

The weekly battles which have raged for the past two months over the Shabbat opening of a large car park at the Mamilla Shopping Centre near the Old City show no sign of abating.

Last weekend, for the first time, strictly-Orthodox demonstrators managed to block the entrance to the car park despite the attempts of police to block them.

The demonstrations spread to other parts of the capital with roadblocks and stone-throwing on Bar Ilan Street in north Jerusalem.

Mayor Nir Barkat, who took the decision to open the car park, has tried to make overtures to the Charedi community, whose representatives are members of his coalition. On Sunday evening he visited a Chasidic elder, the Kaliver Rebbe, in Ezrat Torah neighbourhood.

As he left the rabbi’s house, about 30 Charedi men surrounded him, shouting and pushing, and when he found refuge in his car, they sat down on the road in front of it, some tried to open the doors and a few men threw stones at the car. Mr Barkat was not injured and was extricated a few minutes later by the police.

The Mayor tried to drive a wedge into the strictly-Orthodox community when he said the next day: “The great majority of the Charedis have no problem with me, nor I with them, it is just a minute, violent minority who act in such a way.”

His deputy, Yitzhak Pindrus of the United Torah Judaism party, also condemned the attack, saying: “I am shocked by those who think that only they remember and sanctify the Shabbat and forget that the Ten Commandments include also ‘Do Not Steal’. The Torah includes also the prohibition against damaging someone’s property, and certainly his body.”

On Monday, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich met Rabbi Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss, the leader of the Eda Haredit, the ultra-conservative group within the strictly-Orthodox community which has been organising the Shabbat demonstrations with the aim of reaching an agreement to tone them down. No progress was made at the meeting.

Last updated: 10:39am, August 13 2009