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Religious Demonstrators Try to Halt Film Showing on Shabbat

Police used water hoses to disperse religious demonstrators–mostly yeshiva youths–who tried to break into a Tel Aviv movie house Friday night to stop a film performance on the Sabbath. The demonstrators were led by Tel Aviv Rabbi Israel Lau and Deputy Mayor Chaim Bassuk, of the National Religious Party. The incident is expected to further endanger the uneasy Likud-NRP coalition that governs the Tel Aviv municipality under Likud Mayor Shlomo Lehat.

Traditionally, all movie and theatrical performances are banned on the Sabbath in compliance with the so-called status quo that has governed relations between Israel’s secular majority and Orthodox minority since the inception of the State. But several movie houses have opened in Tel Aviv on Friday nights without interference from the authorities. Deputy Mayor Bassuk urged the NRP leadership to consider breaking away from the coalition in protest.

On Friday night, masses of yeshiva students joined by worshippers leaving synagogue services converged on the Allenby Cinema on Allenby Road where an old American film. “From Here to Eternity” was being shown. The demonstrators confined themselves to shouting at first but when a group attempted to storm the theater, they were blocked by a cordon of police. Eventually, a police water tanker was summoned and the hoses brought into play. Non-religious youths taunted the demonstrators with exhortations to join the army and do their fighting on the front.

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