Sabbath riot on the road to orthodoxy
Israel in turmoil: US visit leaves few options for talks as ultra- religious Jews increase pressure on holy city's secular population
Monday 15 July 1996
The battle to close the road is at the centre of the struggle between religious and secular Israelis, because it bisects two deeply religious districts in Jerusalem. In the wake of their successes in the May elections, the ultra-orthodox, or Haredim, hope they will finally succeed in stopping traffic between dusk on Friday and dusk on Saturday.
"It will be closed within two months," predicted David, an ultra-orthodox, watching police horses trying to drive back demonstrators and onlookers. Secular Israelis fear he is right. Israel, the man who had been knocked off his motorcycle to the jeers of onlookers, said, as he picked himself up: "I know it is my duty as a citizen of Jerusalem to drive here."
Much of the violence during the riot came from the police. I was standing outside a clothes shop with some children from the neighbourhood when we were suddenly attacked by the riot squad, one of whom grabbed me round the neck until he was restrained by one of his officers. Later we were soaked by water cannon which drenched bystanders indiscriminately.
Avraham Ravitz, a member of the Knesset for the Torah Judaism party, said: "What happened tonight was a pogrom by bloodthirsty police officers. They beat children and pregnant women. I told them the protests would cease if they left, but they just wanted to hit the people."
This is something of an exaggeration, but the police were extraordinarily aggressive. At one point, a senior policeman with a bullhorn shouted at us to get out of the way. "Relax," said an Israeli journalist. "I don't want to relax," the officer yelled back. A boy crossing the road was grabbed by police and dragged off shouting: "I want to go home! I want to go home!"
The anger of the Haredim was directed more at the police than at secular demonstrators from the left-wing Meretz party. "If it wasn't for the police, all people would do is shout 'Shabbes, Shabbes' [Yiddish for the Sabbath] and throw a few stones," said a bystander.
Secular Israelis believe they are being squeezed out of Jerusalem, where a growing proportion of the Jewish population are Haredim. A sign of the growing intolerance was a notice on a lamp-post in Bar-Ilan which advertised a three-room flat for sale "for religious people only." It comes complete with "a Shabbat elevator", which operates automatically, so that the user does not have to press the button and make forbidden use of electricity.
- 1 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 4 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Costa Concordia: Shipment of Mob drugs was hidden aboard cruise liner when it hit rocks off Italian coast, investigators say
Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
Iran nuclear talks: Prospect of deal with Iran pushes Saudi Arabia and Israel into an unlikely alliance
A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...
£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...
£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...
Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...