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Prayer Protest Against Digs

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An estimated 1,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews assembled in “Shabbes Square” before dawn this morning for two hours of prayers and psalm-singing to protest archaeological diggings at the City of David, just outside the Old City Walls.

The prayers lasted from 4-6 a.m. and the crowd dispersed peacefully. There was no repetition of the rioting which broke out in the same place, over the same issue a week ago, due apparently to a massive display of force by Jerusalem police. Police units in riot gear, backed by water cannon and tear-gas guns, surrounded the square.

A delegation of rabbis met later with senior police officers to protest the continued detention of 18 ultra-Orthodox Jews arrested in the earlier riots. They have been remanded in custody for 10 days pending trial.

Speakers at this morning’s demonstration demanded that the digging site be separated by a stone wall from the alleged site of an ancient Jewish cemetery to prevent its desecration. The Education Ministry, which licensed the dig, erected a wooden fence. Aministry spokesman said a stone fence was preferable but funds are lacking for one at this time.

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