â€˜Jewish Taliban’ battle riot police over Sabbath car park opening in Jerusalem
THOUSANDS of ultra-Orthodox Jews were expected to clash with riot police in Jersalem again last night in the latest protest against the opening of the city’s municipal car parks on the Jewish Sabbath.
The decision by the secular Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, to open the car parks has enraged the city’s ultra-Orthodox population and has turned into an effective battle for the soul of the city, according to this report.
Said Yoelish Krausz, an ultra-Orthodox protest organiser:
If we win this fight, then Jerusalem is ours.
Known in Hebrew as Haredim, or those who fear God, Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox population numbers about 200,000, or 32 per cent of the city’s Jewish population.
Jewish people who choose to violate Jewish law in private is one thing but for the public authorities, who are Jewish and who are in control of city, to violate the Sabbath, that is a direct challenge to the word of God.
Fearful that the opening of the car parks will lead to the widespread opening of shopping malls and other desecration of the Sabbath, Krausz maintains that the protests will continue every Saturday until the municipality reverses its policy.
Krausz says his ultimate goal is to bring about a change in the way Jerusalem is governed.
We want international sovereignty for Jerusalem. This is a city that belongs to everyone, to Jews, to Christians and to the Arabs. The worst thing is that it be governed by Jews who disobey God.
The fight over the car parks is not the only source of tension between the Haredim and the local authorities. Last month the arrest of an ultra-Orthodox mother accused of starving her son sparked riots across the city.
Krausz, a member of the Edah Haredit sect of Haredi Jews, which strongly opposes Zionism and the state of Israel, said he spoke for 9,000 families in Jerusalem – or about 90,000 people in total. At 37 and already a father of 11, his family came to Jerusalem from Hungary after the end of World War II.
But just as Krausz and his barmy army seek to exert maximum pressure on the Jerusalem municipality, the mayor, Nir Barkat, is under enormous pressure from secular and mainstream religious Jews not to cave into the Haredim.
Said Tzvi Fisher, 53:
I call them the Jewish Taliban. They have no respect for any way of life other than their own, and I am here to urge the mayor not to give into their thuggish intimidation and threats of violence.
Fisher says it is time Barkat took a more aggressive stance.
We let them get away with everything. Women’s rights, gender-segregated transport, allowing them not to serve in the army and huge state social security support.
With the multiplex cinema at the Jerusalem Mall now set to close and be replaced by a Swedish department store, Fisher also blames the Haredim for Jerusalem’s dwindling number of cinemas.
Under pressure from the ultra-Orthodox, the developer of the new Mamilla Mall in the downtown area agreed to scrap his original plan to allow a new cinema complex, he said.
By the end of next year there will only be two cinemas left in the whole city. I’ve had enough of this.