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Begin Meets with Burg on Clashes in Bnei Brak

The dispute over a closed street in the Orthodox township of Bnei Brak is taking on political overtones that have reached the highest echelons of government. Premier Menachem Begin, who is preparing for his trip to Washington next week, took time out to meet on the matter with interior Minister Yosef Burg of the National Religious Party (NRP). Burg, whose ministry now encompasses the Ministry of Police, is urging that steps be taken to restore peace in the community, especially on the Sabbath.

Begin promised that Deputy Minister Yoram Aridor who is in charge of the Transport Ministry, will deal with the dispute as soon as he returns from London. Fighting broke out between religious and non-religious elements in Bnei Brak Friday night after the latter staged a demonstration against the closure of Hashomer Street to traffic on the Sabbath. The street runs through both Orthodox and non-observant neighborhoods.

A week earlier, a 22-year-old Israeli, Herzl Attaya, was killed when his jeep struck a chain stretched across the thoroughfare to block traffic. Since then, non-religious groups have used the fatality to rally opposition against the closure. Attaya’s family has appealed to all groups not to use their son’s name for political purposes. Never the less, another demonstration is reportedly planned for this Friday evening.

Although Bnei Brak traditionally has been closed to traffic on the Sabbath, Hashomer Street, a main artery, was blocked only recently. Non-religious groups maintain that if it continues to be closed, the status quo on religious matters would be violated.

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