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Tag: Meah Shearim

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.

Mazal Tov to Haim Tabakman

Mazal Tov to Haim Tabakman, an Israeli film director whose first feature-length picture, “Eyes Wide Open” won first prize for the “Eros and Psyche” award at the 15th annual MedFilm festival in Rome, Italy.

“Eyes Wide Open” is an Israeli, German and French co-production. The story is about a kosher butcher who has a homosexual love affair with a young man in Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim neighborhood.

The festival was held on Nov 7-14 and showcased 130 films from countries all around the Mediterranean region.
“Eyes Wide Open” also won the grand prize last month at the 36th Ghent International Film Festival in Belgium.

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.

Jerusalem Mayor Gets Death Threats Over Parking Lot

Jerusalem secular Mayor Nir Barkat has barely gotten into the routine of presiding over Israel’s capital and second largest city. And now he has had at least two death threats against him via email messages. Being secular, and interested in promoting his city’s tourism business, a big money maker for the country’s most historical and holiest city to three major religions, Bareket’s attempts to provide weekend visitors to the Old City with a parking lot has been met with violent objection by the city’s Haredi or Ultra Orthodox Jewish community.

Nir BarkatThe parking lot that has been the subject of all this controversy is located just outside the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City and underneath a brand new open air shopping mall that also contains many Jerusalem Municipality offices. The lot, which is also close to several luxury hotels, including the King David Hotel and David Citadel Hotel, is actually not located near the Haredi strongholds such as Meah Shearim. Religious Jews wishing to enter the Old City to pray at the Kotel or Western Wall on the Sabbath don’t even go near this lot for the most part; and yet the lot being open on the Jewish Sabbath has stirred up a boiling cauldron of controversy, which has resulted in rioting that caused fires to be set in garbage dumpsters and thousands of Haredi and other religious protestors pitting themselves against police, who had to use water cannon as a last resort , and arrested scores of religious protestors.

Non religious protestors – to the demand to close the parking lot have also been active, including Knesset members like Labor Party member Ofer Pines, who was very upset by the actions of the religious community who, in Pine’s opinion, “want to turn Israel’s capital into another Teheran”.

The parking lot is meant to be beneficial not only to non-religious Jews, but also to many Christian and other visitors who come to Jerusalem on the weekend, particularly to visit the Old City, as well as shop in the large Souk open air market. Under a long standing agreement established by previous city fathers, including long time mayor Teddy Kolleck, the Jerusalem Municipality abided by the wishes of the religious community, and as a result, virtually everything in the western part of the city, with the exception of a few pubs and other similar establishments are closed on Shabbat. The Old City and most of East Jerusalem, where most of the city’s Arab community lives, is open for business, with the exception of places like the Old City’s Jewish Quarter. Where all this will finally end is still anybody’s guess, but it’s obvious that the Jerusalem Municipality not yet ready to turn the city over to the ultra-orthodox religious community.

Police are now trying to determine who sent the death threats against Mayor Baraket, and are taking the threats seriously, in light of what happened to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in November, 1995, in Tel Aviv by a religious fanatic, Yigal Amir. The Municipality, appear to be sticking by their decision to let the parking lot remain open, and that all efforts will be made to ensure the security of all people wanting to use the parking lot during Shabbat.

Jerusalem Gay Pride parade takes place in quieter atmosphere

This year’s Jerusalem Gay Pride parade and solidarity event appears to have taken place Thursday without the violence and counter demonstrations that have marred this now annual event. Although some 5,000 participants have been expected, the actual number may wind up to be more like 2,500; and even the police presence was much smaller than in previous years, when as many as 12,000 police were on hand.

Gay Pride Jerusalem 2009This year’s march, which culminates June Gay Pride Month in Israel, is taking place from the Liberty Bell Garden, in the heart of city, and winding up in Independence Park (near the Knesset) where an evening rally will take place. The Holy City has been the scene of some unpleasant demonstrations in past years by the city’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community, with even some participants being stabbed during the 2005 parade. Jerusalem police had placed undercover police offices to mingle with the crowd in case any problems develop, according to police spokesperson Shmuel Ben-Ruby. A small demonstration of religious objectors to the “abomination” of the event was also said to be taking place, in Shabbat Square in the Meah Shearim neighborhood (an ultra-orthodox stronghold) and at Paris Square.

Jerusalem has been on edge recently since thousands of ultra-orthodox or haredi men rioted in protest to a parking lot being opened on the Sabbath to accommodate weekend visitors to the city. Further disturbances have been expected, should the city decide to make another attempt to re-open the lot, which is located beneath the Jerusalem Municipality building and is primarily intended for use by tourists who want to visit the Old City.

Although the parade and Gay Pride rally is intended by its organizers, Open House, Jerusalem’s gay and lesbian center, various religious groups, including Christians and Muslims, have been against such events being staged in Jerusalem. And a public opinion poll, conducted with Jerusalem residents, indicates that two thirds of those polled are against such events being staged. “Let them (the Gays) do what they want in Tel Aviv – but not here” one resident said.

Haredim Clash with Police in Jerusalem

In what appears to be the worst outburst of ultra-orthodox Jewish violence in Jerusalem in nearly two years, thousands of the city’s Haredim community took to the streets on Saturday to clash with police over the opening of a parking lot by the city municipality to give visitors a place to park their cars while visiting the city on the Sabbath. Shouting “Shabbos, Shabbos”, and with many throwing rocks and other missiles at a large police contingent, the protestors created a mayhem that resulted in six policemen being lightly injured along with dozens of protestors, some of whom fought violently on a day when observant Jews are supposed to be at prayer and rest.

The police were so fearful that the mob would storm the city municipality building (where the parking lot is located) that they had to resort to using water cannon to disperse the rioters, as well as put out several fires to garbage dumpsters after the end of Shabbat. The opening of the parking lot on Shabbat was legally authorized after the city agreed to have it run by a non Jew. The Haredi community had other ideas, however, and the rioting not only involved the area of the parking lot but the ultra-orthodox Meah Shearim neighborhood as well, where most of the dumpster fires were later set.

Seven rioters were arrested on charges of committing a public disturbance (i.e. a riot) and one policeman, who was hit in the head by a rock, had to be hospitalized. The mayhem was the first big public disturbance in the administration of newly elected secular Mayor Nir Barkat, whose office denounced the disturbances on Sunday, and declared that the lot will remain open on the Sabbath. The city officials had been trying to find a solution to the parking problems in the city on the weekends, when thousands of tourists and other visitors come to Jerusalem, especially the Old City. It was agreed not to charge money for the parking, but this apparently didn’t matter to the Haredim, who still consider the lot to be a desecration of the Sabbath, and who had posted ads in religious newspapers beforehand saying to “be prepared for a battle for Jerusalem.”

A small group of secular people held an opposite protest with signs saying “this is not Teheran – the Haredim have no shame!”

The last big Heredim sponsored riot in the Capital occurred when the country’s Gay Rights groups tried to stage a march in the city on International Gay Pride Day.

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