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Tag: Nir Barkat

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.

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.

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.

Hold your horses Barkat

Nir Barkat has been elected mayor of Jerusalem less than 48 hours ago.

Who is he? First of all, he’s regarded as the savior of the secular population in the capital — and this is why most secular people in Jerusalem bothered to go out and vote. Secondly, he’s a right-wing ideologist who had made his money in the hi-tech industry. No doubt an interesting character.

In any case, Nir isn’t wasting any time. He’s been sitting on the opposition side of the city council for the past five years, and I guess he feels like it’s time to consummate all his unfulfilled plans. Yesterday, after his victory had been confirmed, he held a press conference in King David hotel, and declared — among other things — that he would consider dismantling the Cords Bridge and canceling the light rail project!

Hundreds of millions of Shekels have already been spent in these two large-scale projects; not to mention years of hard work. It’s been less than 5 months since the Chords Bridge was inaugurated, and several segments of the light rail are already in place.

Why would he do it? Mr. Barkat says both the Chords Bridge and the light rail project aren’t “sacred cows”, and that they cost too much at the expense of the residents and at the expense of the culture budget, the education budget, etc.

He may be right, but I think it’s a bit too early to come out with such bombastic statements.

Gaydamak lost the race, now losing all his property

The new mayor of Jerusalem is Nir Barkat, who gained more votes than Haredi contender Meir Porush. Arcadi Gaydamak came third with merely 3% of the votes.

In Tel Aviv, Gaydamak’s faction “Tze’dek Hev’ra’ti” (Social Justice) won a single seat in the city council.

But apart from losing the race in Jerusalem, Gaydamak is rapidly losing all his possessions in the Israeli economy. He walked out of Radio 99FM, without paying salaries to its 80 employees. And creditors have taken away control of his companies.

Photo by Lisa Goldman

Photo by Lisa Goldman

It’s unclear how he suddenly lost much of his money — as it is unclear how he initially gained it.

The only major possession he still owns is the soccer club Beitar Jerusalem, although he may be forced to sell it soon.

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