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Frictions Between Religious and Non-religious Increase over Death of Sabbath Motorist in Bnei Brak

Religious and non-religious leaders are trying to calm an uproar in Bnei Brak following the death of a 22-year-old man when his jeep slammed into a chain put across a street to close it for the Sabbath. Police said that the driver, Herzl Attaya, was killed upon impact at midnight Friday and a friend in the jeep was injured.

Police said that Attaya did not see the chain because he was driving at excessive speed on the closed-off road, Hashomer Street. But the incident has exacerbated an already serious dispute over the closing of the road by the Municipality of Bnei Brak.

The Ministry of Transportation has objected to the municipality closing Hashomer Street in a religious residential area because the road is a major thoroughfare which goes through religious and non-religious areas. Bnei Brak has appealed to the Supreme Court the Ministry’s decision and last week closed the road.

There were demonstrations and counter-demon-strations on June 24 when the municipality first closed the road and they intensified last Friday. Scuffles broke out and the police had to intervene. By night it was quiet and the chain was in place when the accident occurred.

When news of the fatality was reported on Israel Radio Saturday the area became filled with those in favor and those against closing the street for the Sabbath. The police were augmented by crack units of border police who, along with Bnei Brak officials and religious leaders on one side and secular leaders on the other side, were able to prevent clashes except for shouting back and forth. Meanwhile, Labor, Mapam and Sheli have sent cables to Premier Menachem Begin demanding an investigation.

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