Religious Leaders Testify on Sabbath Demonstration in Jerusalem

The Special Inquiry Commission probing the recent Sabbath demonstration, which resulted in one death and twenty injured, today heard testimony from religious leaders who previously boycotted the hearings.

Rabbi Salman Sorotzkin, president of the Agudath Israel Council of Sages, told the commission that “the Sabbath was given to all Jews, and it is the duty of the Orthodox to make all others observe the Sabbath.” The demonstrations would have been peaceful, if “the police did not intervene and provoke,” he claimed.

Rabbi Abraham Shaag, former Mizrachi member of Parliament and chairman of the Council for Military Memorials, stated that forcing persons to observe the Sabbath is no different than invoking rules forbidding people from smoking in buses.

Shmuel Weingartner, of the Jerusalem Religious Council, told the commission that a five-day work week should be inaugurated, thus giving workers one non-Sabbath day to use their automobiles for recreational purposes, yet making it possible for them to observe the Sabbath.

Dov Lipov, secretary of the Jerusalem Labor Party, presenting labor’s view, said that the day of rest could be employed for athletics, trips to the country and other recreations. Several witnesses accused the police of “brutality” against religious demonstrators while condoning counterdemonstration by non-religious elements.

At a meeting of the Israel Cabinet last night, Minister of Religion Moshe Shapira asked whether Minister of Police Behor Shetreet approves of a statement made by the Jerusalem Police Commissioner that the ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta group which led the Sabbath demonstration should be given an opportunity to leave for Jordan. The Jerusalem Police Commissioner, Levi Avrahami, made this statement while testifying before the Inquiry Commission, last week, and the Minister of Religion wanted to know whether this is also the view of the Minister of Police.

Rabbi Amram Blau, leader of the Neturei Karta, said today that he would be ready to take 300 families across the border into Jordan, if Israel will permit such emigration. In an interview in the newspaper Maariv, Rabbi Blau stated that “from the religious viewpoint, we will feel more secure in Jordan.” In Israel, he declared, “we are concerned lest our children will deviate from traditional Judaism among so-called Jews who are actually non-believers and hardly differ from Christians. There would be no such danger in Arab surroundings.”

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