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Tag: Haredim (page 1 of 2)

The Real Way to Get The Haredi Community Drafted to IDF

As long as there is no Halakha law that allows Haredi Israelis to join IDF we won’t see it happen. The way to get the Haredi community drafted to IDF is not by state law, it requires a perceptual change.

The issue of Haredi Israelis not getting drafted to study Torah, or evading the army as the secular public refers to it, has been a hot topic within Israel for more than a decade. It comes down to, as disagreements tend to be, to different points of view that create a collision and amount to resentment, distance, misunderstanding and especially no results.

Most non Haredi (i.e. religious, traditional, secular and all the wide range of Jewish communities within Israel) will say the Arabic threat is so acute, present and immediate that joining IDF, protecting Israel by military force is the biggest and most meaningful service one should complete. In fact, a large percent of people from these non Haredi communities consider being a soldier in IDF a national duty and support the mandatory drafting in Israel.

According to Haredi belief the Jewish people must learn Torah at all times, if not – the world will come to its end. The phenomena of studding Torah instead of providing ones family, paying taxes or serve the army is actually legitimate among the Haredi community; according to an ancient packet, still valid by Haredi law, between the tribe of Zebulun and the tribe of Issachar, a mutual symbiosis is suppose to be between those who study Torah and those who provide for them.

As Haredi Israelis do not consider the state of Israel as an authority, the Tal’s law will not be efficient in any way. As long as there is no Halakha Law that orders Haredi Israelis to join the army, no Haredi will dare to do so. A change in Halakha orders will only be achieved by a groundbreaking change in the rigid stands taken by the different sides. As do most disagreements, this issue requires a new kind of dialog, being conveyed through a common language between the different points of view.

Girl Censorship in Haredi Press 2012

In a weird story of religious based censorship, a local newspaper blurred the faces of little girls that appeared in a toy store ad, without telling the store, drawing the ire of both customers and the chain. It seemed that this newspaper, which should be somewhat neutral in the process, angered everybody, and now the toy store Red Pirate is paying the price for it. This is a report of the recent events in Beit Shemesh.

It all started with innocent sounding ads, where boys and girls modeled some Purim costumes for a series of ads. These ads were then sent to Haredim papers, and that’s where the trouble began. According to the store, the newspaper board of editors took the decision to blur the girls faces, while the boys stayed fully exposed, without ever telling them about it. The firs to find out were those who read the paper and were shocked to see the advertisement. It didn’t take for many people in Beit Shemesh, where the papers are produced, to flock to the Red Pirate Facebook page and complain. One writes “I am a woman with a face, now I’ll know not to buy from your store!” Another asks “How disgusting.. Do you also spit on little girls?” The Facebook page in question was still growing daily with disappointed girls posting their thoughts.

Red Pirate meanwhile has to deal with the angry customers, while it claims it actually knew nothing of the situation. In a press release, the chain says that the newspaper took the decision and did not tell them about it. Meanwhile, the ultra-orthodox paper responds “Haredim won’t have an unclean paper enter their home.” indicating that it was done purposely. The protest meanwhile grew to impressive proportions in the community, and has no sign of stopping. It remains to be seen whether the paper will change it’s views or not on the issue, and whether the store will try to get financial reparation from Haredim. These types of cases often end up in court, as the store will no doubt suffer from loss sales because of this. Historically, there’s been many such calls for action from protest groups, and the stores affected usually see drops in sales.

This isn’t the first time religious based decisions lead to anger, and likely won’t be the last. Many religious texts prone things that have become known as unjust in modern civilizations, such as inequalities between men and women, or archaic practices. Often however, these religions change much slower than many would like to. One thing is certain, this event is more than likely not over, and we’ll see how each party handles this issue in the future.

Yeshiva Scandal Will Work In Favor Of Yeshiva Bachors

According to a recent report from the Ministry of Education, a state-funded yeshiva recorded nearly 10,000 “ghost workers” on whose behalf the yeshivas received scholarships. According to Treasury estimates, the damage came to something like 55 million shekels a year.

According to reports from Israel’s economic media, this amount will not be returned to the budget of the Ministry of Education, and will actually remain in the yeshiva.

The Ministry of Finance and the Knesset approved a financial decision that the yeshivas obtained funds fraudulently, but the funds nevertheless, will be used to increase the benefits of the students who do learn in these institutions. The Stipend for each student will grow at 60 shekels a month to 515 shekels a month.

Semi-Life Sentence Handed Down to Yeshiva Students

Kadima condemned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the results of a vote on Sunday, in which the cabinet approved a plan to extend the government stipend received by Haredi Yeshiva students for five years, at least. Tzipi Livni complained Netanyahu “sold the Israeli public.” (which arguably, however, is among the prime minister’s tasks). She was referring to the prime minister’s attempt to popularize IDF service among the ultra-orthodox. Which, again, would not be the end of the world.

Fourteen ministers, including ministers from “Yisrael Beiteinu”, voted ‘yay’ on the plan. Among the eight who voted ‘nay’ were Avodah. Shas abstained.

YeshivaAccording to the plan, during the next four years, no changes will be made to the funds received by married yeshiva students who do not work and have at least three children. During the fifth year, however, the stipend for yeshiva students under the age of 29 who meet the criteria will be decreased by some 75%.

Filers of the original petition 10 years ago, the National Student Union, has accredited their movement to the “good results.”

Union head Itzik Shmuli said in a statement:

“We think these are good recommendations that will increase solidarity in our society and make it a more egalitarian one…At the same time, we expect them to be legislated in the Knesset to ensure their future implementation.”

The objective of cutting the Kollel stipend, and Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, has signed off on this, is to save money, help assimilate the Haredim into Israeli society and mainstream culture, increase IDF service among them, strengthen the work force and set an example for the nation.

Once Upon a Time in Sheikh Jarrah

Either it’s all in their mind or police officers in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah give a disproportionate dose of force to ultra-left protesters than those fighting for the Jewish claim to the neighborhood.
A few Jewish families moved into the Palestinian area recently, causing the eviction of a few permanent Palestinian residents.

Avner Inbar is a left-wing activist, he claims:

“The police are calling us outlaws and anarchists, despite the fact that the crowd here is mostly composed of professors from the Hebrew University and Jerusalemite teens who sing protest songs to the sound of drums.”

The peacenik continued:

“While the officers suppress our protests, sometimes violently, haredim and settlers riot unhindered in the neighborhood and attack Palestinian residents – sometimes to the point at which they require medical treatment.”

Complained Inbar:

“Jerusalem Police see themselves as the operating arm of the settlers in east Jerusalem, and this conduct harms the police’s credibility.”


Sarah Beninga another ultra-left activist was detained for more than 36 hours in a holding cell, she tells her story:

“I was standing next to an ultra-Orthodox family that had entered the neighborhood and the officers just jumped on me and took me to their car. I didn’t push anyone or do anything…I found myself undergoing a strip search and handing over all of my personal belongings,”

she said.

“The sheets in the holding cell were dirty, and when I asked for a blanket I got a wet one. I wasn’t treated like a human being, but like a criminal.”

She contrasted the treatment which she received to that received by the haredi Intel protestors:

“The haredim who protested at Intel torched garbage cans violently and without permits, but almost no one was arrested.”

This is what a police spokesperson had to say:

“In recent weeks leftists and anarchists have held illegal protests that disturbed the peace time and again. The protestors tried to break into Jewish homes, blocked roads, and attacked Jewish passersby and police officers…Officers arrested a few dozen protestors when they refused to respond to calls to disperse. They were brought before a court and released after indictments were filed against them. Law enforcement will continue without discrimination, and no violations will be allowed in Sheikh Jarrah or anywhere else.”

The Tale of Aharon Lipner: The Un-Zionist

Turkey makes it clear that they are disturbed by Israel, but not THAT disturbed – that is to say, when it comes to the threat of losing money, their attitude changes, fast!
So amidst inter-government turmoil, Turkey is trying to draw in the ultra-Orthodox community.
The sad part is that the Israeli tourism industry is letting the ultra-Orthodox be exploited.
A delegation of haredi journalists will be traveling to Turkey next week, to visit Jewish attractions. The delegation will ride courtesy of the Turkish Tourism Ministry. The brains behind the idea belong to one Aharon Lipner, owner of Club Kosher, a haredi tourism company.
While the haredi journalists are there, among other cool things to look at, they will find a brand new glatt kosher restaurant – Turkey’s first in the resort town of Antalya. The restaurant will be called the King David, with kashrut under the supervision of Rabbi Moshe Nahshoni – and the restaurant manager, none other than Lipner. The opening of the restaurant is the initiative of another Israeli tourism company, Eshet Tours.
So, why might we be angry?
These guys are totally disrespecting an unofficial Israeli tourism embargo on Turkey.
First Israel gets cut out of aviation training activities by Turkey – with complete disregard for all of the favors that the IAF has done in training the Turkish air force.
Then, if that didn’t leave you offended – your blood began to boil when Turkey for the second year in-a-row, aired the second television program, which slanders Israel and Israelis.

In 2009, Israeli tourism to Turkey plunged 44%.

Well…good.
Lipner said:

“The idea is to clear the slate in the hearts of Israelis… Turks will continue to accept the Jews very respectfully. They have great confidence in the religious and haredi sectors, so they decided to finance the delegation.”

In other words, as long as my company makes money, so can an Israeli-bashing Turkey!
No they’re not as bad as some countries, but shouldn’t we make an example? We will not stand aloof while you spread lies about us!
Efraim Kramer, CEO of Eshet Tours, says that
the religious sector is a major “player” in the tourism industry, and

“designing special resort packages to suit the needs of this sector will constitute a completing product for public of conservative, institutional and young customers of Eshet Tours as well.”

The New Ultra-Orthodox Zionist

2009 saw approximately 2,000 haredi yeshiva students join the IDF or National Service. This is in sharp contrast to the 300 to 400 in 2008.
Most of these ultra-Orthodox men who chose to enlist in the IDF or do national service were older than 25. Most married with children.

The sharp rise may have been a result of the implementation of the Tal law. The Barak administration established the Tal Committee in 1999, with the aim of resolving problems stemming from draft exemptions for yeshiva students. The Tal law took effect in August 2002.

The law permits yeshiva students older than 22 to take one year off from their studies. During the year, they can acquire a profession or work without being drafted. At the end of the year, the students have a choice of either returning to full-time studies or completing abbreviated national service.

Between 2002 and 2005, only 1,400 yeshiva students, or 3% took a year off from their studies, and only 74 chose to fulfill national service.
The Finance Ministry blocked the creation of civilian national service for yeshiva students interested in remaining in the workforce. And the Defense Ministry, which demanded that men 23-year-olds complete a more lengthy service.

The National Service Administration reported that in 2009, 1,070 haredi men who had previously been enrolled full-time in yeshivot and kolelim opted to do national service. The men chose between a one year eight-hour-a-day track and a two-year four-hour-a-day track.
The normal National Service occupations for ultra-Orthodox participants are inside haredi neighborhoods or haredi charity organizations as paramedics, teachers, and social services workers.

As for the IDF, there’s the Shahar option. Shahar stands for haredi service (sheirut haredim) and targets married haredi men. They focus on training haredi men for non-combat roles like computer programmers, technicians and mechanics. There is also the Nahal Haredi, a battalion designated for ultra-Orthodox soldiers. Both the Nachal Haredi and Shahar provide participants with occupational training.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, a total of 5,500 21-year-old haredim asked for a deferral of their mandatory military service.
The total number of haredi men who request deferrals for the sake of devoting themselves to Torah education is about 55,000. Therefore, haredi men of various ages who choose to do national or military service make up just 3.5% of the total.

The End of Innocence

After Shabbat, a brawl took place between the Ashkenazi and Sephardic haredi population, in Zayin quarter, Ashdod. The Belz and Ger Hassidic sects claim that Sephardic Yeshiva dropouts are wandering the streets on Shabbat, in a disrespectful manner.

One Sephardic resident of the neighborhood said of the Ashkenazi protesters:

“They planned on making provocations ahead of time, to rile things up and cause the police to come, so they would ultimately attack us. It is simply horrifying what is happening here. There are Ashkenazi haredi groups here who are trying to hurt us and our children in any possible way. They are violent, and they are supported by their leaders.”

They continued:

“They shouted and approached young boys sitting there. One of them shoved my 11-year-old daughter and kicked her. Usually, in previous clashes, they would get swallowed into the masses, but this time we managed to photograph one of them. We went to the police and filed a complaint. We expect the police to take action against their leaders because they incite this whole phenomenon.”

An Ashkenazi resident explained the cause:

“Much to our chagrin, there are many young Sephardic boys in the neighborhood who dropped out of the yeshiva and have become rebellious…they harass our daughters as they pass through the streets. Some of them also smoke on Shabbat in the neighborhood, and are not fit to live here. Denomination-based tension has been created because of them since they behave inappropriately. They idly sit in the streets.”

Another Ashkenazi activist said of the Sephardic youth:

“These young men sit in the streets, while some of them make provocations. This is a small minority for whom a solution must be found. I, myself, am trying to help them in any way possible. They need to go and learn a profession.”

Flyers were handed out in Ashkenazi synagogues during Shabbat, and the protests quickly escalated into physical confrontations. Several people were arrested, and brought in for questioning.

Haredi Web Surfing

The haredi world says that their religious rabbinical sensibilities are being manipulated by businessman and politicians on their Internet sites. The skillful manipulation seriously damages the popularity of haredi Internet sites which offer news items, op-eds and talk-backs focusing on internal ultra-Orthodox matters, spiced with multimedia.

splash-index-computersOfficial rabbinic opinion allows surfing the Internet just for business purposes – but it’s a rule that apparently many are willing to break. According to a recently released study by the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2008, 55 % of haredim who own a computer also were connected to Internet – this is compared to a national average of 92%.

“B’Hadarei Haredim”, “Haredim”, and “Kikar Shabbat” are the three biggest haredi sites, but there are smaller sites such as “Ladaat”.

They all dedicate themselves to issues such as new rabbinic decrees, interviews with haredi politicians and coverage of demonstrations.
While the haredi print media tends to deal with what is called “hard news” such as political and diplomatic stories, the haredi Internet sites delve into the depths of internal haredi affairs.

The site “Kikar Shabbat” will be posting an op-ed about the dangers of sending young boys to the mikveh, not from haredi mikveh-goers, but from secular perverts who frequent the baths.
The piece was carefully censored by the site’s editorial staff to take out words like “sex”, “backside” and “deviant”. Still, the topic of child abuse is strictly taboo in the haredi printed media.

Unlike the three daily haredi newspapers – Hamodia, Yated Ne’eman and Hamevaser – Internet sites are not aligned with any political or rabbinic leadership. This freedom, so they have discovered, allows them to be much more critical of rabbis, politicians and other haredi figures.

Shame Shame

Starving children, constant rioting, what’s next? What COULD be next? Jerusalem’s haredi neighborhood has found another way to offend their comrades…who they refuse to admit as being such.

Private investigators of the Education Ministry have revealed that several ultra-orthodox schools in the holy city have enrolled students who are probably fictitious.

The Education Ministry of the State of Israel provides elementary schools an annual sum of NIS 6,000 (about $1,597) per student. An inquiry showed that Haredi schools in Jerusalem were registering children affiliated with the Eda Haredit, who do not acknowledge the State of Israel and whose children do not attend its establishments. Altogether millions of shekels have been stolen from the government.

The Eda Haredit admitted that they may know something of the phenomenon but refused to cooperate with Israeli investigators.

“We are not interested in dealing with the State of Israel’s losses…it’s not our problem. We solve our problems in our courts.”

Satmar KinderlachThe Eda Haredit are the ones, by the way, who have refused to accept Intel’s compromise about keeping their Jerusalem factory open on Shabbat but not employing Jewish workers and are therefore responsible for embarrassing dangerous and needless demonstrations – just don’t torch any parked cars you guys!

If there was once a portion of the hard-working Israeli soul which felt guilty for being less religiously observant than the Haredim or for showing up in the holy land at a later era, these sentiments may be put to rest. When the State’s religious core has become almost the greatest example of vanishing morals in the entire country, we may as well reassert our values and our hearts.

More Clashing of Worlds in Jerusalem

Despite some violence and 1,500 ultra-Orthodox protesters, shouting”Shabes! Shabes!” Intel Corp. says that it has no plans of closing down their chip making factory in the industrial zone of Har Hotzvim on Shabbat.

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANSThe protests were sparked by Intel’s opening of a new facility near the ultra-orthodox area; the company has operated on Saturday’s for more than twenty years, and plans to continue to do so.

Intel is one of Israel’s biggest corporate supporters. They first opened a plant in Haifa in 1974 and in Jerusalem in 1984. By the year 2000, they employed more than 4000 Israelis.

Most businesses in Jerusalem close down for the Sabbath and those which stay open tend not to be located near haredi neighborhoods. There has always been tension in Jerusalem between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up one third of the city’s population. Well starting last year, things began to get worse. First, voters elected a secular mayor to replace the ultra-Orthodox incumbent, and then City Hall decided to open a municipal parking lot on Shabbat near the Meah Shearim neighborhood. These instances have been the cause of much controversy and violence over the last year, occasionally splashing onto the headlines.

What we have here dear readers is a “failure to communicate” as Paul Newman once put it in “Cool Hand Luke.” Who is right and who is wrong? This is a mere reflection of the case of the disappearing public sphere in the Jewish Country. There needs to a modifier, a common law to entice both sides to come together. It should be the blending of ancient Torah values, with modern Zionist vision; and an effective change of attitude should start in school.

Haredi Rabbi Elyashiv: Please Don’t Anger the Gentiles!

Here are some of the edicts that Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who will turn 100 this coming April, has made lately. The internet is forbidden, Shabbat elevators are forbidden, women must acquiesce to every form of extortion from husbands they want to receive a bill of divorce from in order to be free to remarry, Crocs are forbidden on Yom Kippur, it is forbidden to visit the Western Wall on Shabbat, women are forbidden from earning an academic degree but at the same time must support their unemployed husbands who aren’t allowed to work because they have to study all their lives, and now, Jews are forbidden from entering the Temple Mount complex.
Oh happy day.

Rabbi ElyashivThis latest of rulings was mentioned to President Shimon Peres when the latter went to visit him in his Meah Shearim sukkah.

According to Elyashiv, Jews going up to the Temple mount could anger the gentiles and spark a war and further condemnation of Israel by the nations of the world. So it’s better the Jews lay low and put up a do not disturb sign.

This ruling fits perfectly well with the Haredi mentality of, basically, put up a giant wall, and wait for everything around you to collapse on its own, at which point the Messiah will come and the Haredim will inherit the Earth. This translates into the assumption that if Jews do anything to assert their rights anywhere, then we are “inhibiting the coming of the Messiah,” by breaching the wall we’re supposed to put up. This is why, in Haredi eyes, Israel is illegitimate. We breached the wall.

Elyashiv has his critics and slowly but surely, Haredi society is freeing itself from the influence of the old guard. We won’t see this actively happening until Elyashiv passes on and then some, but there is some simmering going on. Building a giant wall and waiting for everything outside of it to collapse just isn’t in style so much these days.
Some actually think that putting up a do not disturb sign encourages people to start rapping at your door. If you don’t answer, it, the knock usually gets even louder.

Haredim Continue to Scream up a Storm

Well, several weeks have went by, and the Harta parking lot is still open. Now the Haredim are really pissed off, and they’ve decided to, in the words of Emeril Lagasse, kick it up a notch. In the last two days of protests, a Haredi man was run over by a car after he literally threw himself under it, six policemen were injured, and 16 were arrested.

Haredim parking lotIt’s now a battle of wills between mayor Nir Barkat and Haredi stubbornness. At some point, one of them is going to break, but both seem dead set on maintaining vigilance. Police reported an increase in the level of violence, the amount of people participating, the attempts to block roads and the parking lot itself, none of which succeeded. If you’re a policemen, at least your days are no longer boring.

Despite the ratcheting up, the police have no plans to instruct the mayor to shut down the parking lot.

I remember being at a rally recently on Tisha B’Av, where a group of religious nationalists were attending a rally circling the old city of Jerusalem mourning the destruction of the Temple. Meanwhile, upon exiting this rally, I walked through the Haredi Neighborhood of Meah Shearim. There, there was a different Tisha B’Av rally going on, about the parking lot.

Picture it. National religious Jews are circling Jerusalem and mourning the Temple. Haredim mourning the opening of a parking lot. There is something of an obsession here that has taken hold of the Haredi community and caused them to lose their Jewish sanity, until it seems there is none left.

I can imagine that, theoretically speaking, the Temple is actually rebuilt and they’re still protesting the opening of the parking lot. Is it really that far fetched?

Interestingly Dr. Hadas Hanani, a researcher of the haredi society, believes the real reason for the protest’s timing is economic.

“I think that the reason for holding protests at this time is the donations they have to raise ahead of the High Holidays,” she told Ynet. “This is the period when they look for donations abroad, preparing booklets and leaflets with explanations on why it is important not to leave families hungry during the holidays.”

She continued, “They show that they are bravely protecting Shabbat, presenting secular newspaper reports and pictures. It really serves them, it gives them ‘meat’ when they come to donors and tell them, ‘We are facing the seculars, the municipality, the police, and everyone.”

And when will they end according to her? Likely at the end of the holidays. “It will probably calm down slowly. They’ll find a patent in the form of an agreement with the municipality, or have the rabbis say that the demonstrations desecrate Shabbat.”

We shall see.

Terror strikes Tel Aviv Gay Community Center

RobberyNot only is political or nationalistic terrorism a problem, but that against certain interest groups too. A long gunman wearing a mask burst into a central Tel Aviv gay community center late Saturday night, firing an automatic weapon at the crowd of young people who had gathered there. The result left two persons dead and at least 12 more wounded; four of them critically. The center, located on Nahmani Street, off Ahad HaAm, was a well known meeting place for young homosexuals and lesbians, as well as for those who weren’t quite sure what their actual sexual “orientation” really was, but needed a place to discover themselves. Most of the victims of the shooting were teenagers between 16 and 18. The two killed included a male counselor, Yaniv Katz (26), and a young woman, Liz Tarbishi (17).

The attack sent shock waves throughout the entire Tel Aviv entertainment sectors, as many thought this was a Palestinian instigated terror attack. It was an act of terror, all right, but one of a different form and apparently meant to target the city’s homosexual and lesbian communities, considered to be the largest and most open in the country – if not the entire Middle East. So far the lone gunman has not been apprehended, who witnesses said was “dressed in black”.

Police Chief Inspector General David Cohen called the attack “a most serious act” and one in which his police force will utilize all its resources to capture the perpetrator
and any possible accomplices. Israel Gay Youth organization chairman Yaniv Weizman said that the victims “were teenagers to came to center from all parts of the country to receive help and talk to each concerning their apprehensions regarding being gay.” He added that people coming to the center, which also served as a social center, thought that this was a safe place to meet, and was not meant to be pub or nightclub.

“Today, however, someone sent a message that members of the gay community in Tel Aviv are not safe. Someone knew what was going on here”, Weizman added.

The last serious act concerning gays in Israel occurred in Jerusalem in 2005 when two Gay Pride marchers were stabbed by a member of Jerusalem’s Haredi ultra orthodox community.

More clashes of Haredim with Law in Jerusalem over Child Abuse Case

Child abuse JerusalemSomething appears to be going awry among the ultra orthodox Jewish community of Jerusalem. The recent child abuse incident involving a 30 year old Haredi woman suspected of literally starving her three year old son over a two year period to get more attention from him, appears to be yet another incident involving a community who is not only a “culture within a culture” but one that is now trying to exert it’s influence – and even control – over a city that is not only sacred to the Jewish People, but to other religions as well.

The furor that been created, resulting in mass rioting by Haredi Jews, especially those belonging to extreme sects such as the anti-Zionest Toldot Aharon and Neturei Karta sects, who have set themselves apart of the rest of the community and have turned parts of Israel’s capital into a virtual battleground, and is causing widespread disruption to normal life in the city, especially in regards to municipal services.

The woman involved in this latest incident, was detained and later released under house arrest to the home of a prominent Haredi rabbi, was due to undergo psychiatric examinations today to determine her mental ability to face charges for her actions, which have been flatly denied by members of the Eda Haredit groups whose anti-Zionistic extremities may have set back normal relations with Jerusalem municipal authorities “at least 20 years”.

The woman, who is 8 months pregnant, has four other children, whose whereabouts as presently unknown; with speculation that they have been “absorbed” into this community that not only does not recognize the existence of the State of Israel, but often has members seen in photo clips at very unusual places – even posing with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at international anti-Zionest conferences.

Jerusalem in former years used to be city in which both religious and non-religious people seemed to coexist with each other, despite major differences – especially to the observance of the Sabbath and major Jewish holidays. This was especially true under to municipal leadership of Mayor Teddy Kollek, who managed to keep the “pressure cooker” of religious differences from exploding during his long mayoral administration which lasted nearly 3 decades.

More recently, however, secular and even mildly-observant Jews have been leaving Jerusalem and have been replaced by more religious groups, especially Haredi Jews who have moved into many Jerusalem neighborhoods, especially those within reasonable walking distance of the Old City and the Kotel Maaravi or Wailing Wall. This new trend may be the reason why such an uproar has been recently made by Haredi Jews over the parking lot located under the new shopping mall in the Mamilla Quarter, just outside the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City. The opening of the parking lot on Shabbat, for use by non-religious Jews and other visitors to the Old City on the weekends, resulted in mass rioting and demonstrations by the extreme Haredi communities in recent weeks.

Why all of this happening, including personal incidents within these extremely closed communities, is bringing more and more attention to groups of extremely religious groups who now appear to be trying to gain an even greater hold on Israel’s capital, as well as bringing attention for people to appear to live under their own moral and even legal codes of conduct, and seem unwilling to act according to legal codes and statutes that have been set up for the benefit of all residents.

How both municipal and even national legal authorities will be able to deal with this apparently growing problem is one that remains to be seen. But most likely, non-religious Jews will continue to make attempts to exert their presence in the capital as well, resulting in further friction among the various groups of residents which make up the cultural and religious mosaic of the city of Jerusalem.

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