JERUSALEM (Jun. 15)
Counter-violence by anti-religious extremists against ultra-Orthodox zealots who have been burning and defacing bus stops in recent weeks, erupted in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities over the Shavuot holiday as the government made strenuous efforts to effect a reconciliation between secular and religious Jews.
Vandals broke into Hidushei Harim Yeshiva in the Ramat Hayal quarter of Tel Aviv and went on a rampage destroying prayer books, bibles, copies of the Talmud and phylacteries. The walls of the yeshiva, which is run by the Gur Hasidim, were daubed with slogans such as “Khomeini-ists,” a reference to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who imposed a theocratic government on Iran; “Organization Against Blacks, ” a reference to the black garb worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews; and “Down With the Black Parasites.”
The incident was the worst in the series of anti-religious attacks that began with arson at the Bnei Benjamin synagogue in Tel Aviv last Wednesday. The walls of the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv were daubed with swastikas. Swastikas also appeared on cars and house walls in the Neve Sharet religious quarter.
‘TERRIBLE AND DREADFUL’ VIOLENCE
Mayor Shlomo Lehat of Tel Aviv said he was shocked by the “terrible and dreadful” violence. Aguda Israel MK Avraham Shapira demanded life sentences for the perpetrators.
In Jerusalem, a burial society van was attacked by anti-religious elements. Religious books were destroyed in a school in Yavniel and slogans were painted on the walls of the school building and on homes denouncing the local rabbi.
Ultra-Orthodox zealots have, for weeks, waged relentless warfare on bus shelters in Jerusalem and elsewhere because of advertising posters they consider “indecent.” More than a score of arrests have been made, but secular Jews have complained that the police are not tough enough with the religious vandals. Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem in fact predicted there would be counter-violence by anti-religious extremists.
In Petach Tikva, where Orthodox Jews have demonstrated regularly during the past year against Friday night cinema performances, an illuminated map of the city was sprayed with black paint and slogans attacking secular Mayor Dov Tavori. In Rishon LeZion, a bus carrying advertising posters was burned.
SPECIAL COUNCIL TO DISCUSS ISSUES
Premier Shimon Peres has been trying desperately to prevail on religious and secular elements to end the violence. Last Thursday, he and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir convened a meeting of Cabinet ministers, Knesset members, the two Chief Rabbis, the Police Inspector General and media representatives.
They agreed to establish a “special council to discuss controversial issues” and released a statement rejecting “with disgust the use of violence to influence decision-making or to express protest.” Peres said at the meeting that “both religious and anti-religious coercion” are inadmissable. Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira warned that violence and the destruction of property are forbidden by the Torah.
STATUS QUO HAS ERODED
Shamir said after the Thursday meeting that the danger lies in the support fringe groups have managed to mobilize lately among wider circles. He urged isolating the fringe groups that are involved in acts of violence.
But, Shamir observed, in his view the status quo on religious observance had been eroded by certain mayors. Police Minister Haim Barlev said the first priority is to restore respect for the law. He sharply criticized Aguda Israel MK Menachem Porush for saying publicly recently that he personally would deface offending advertisements on bus shelters.
Police Inspector General David Kraus said he met with the rabbis of the ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit sect which has been involved in the attacks on bus shelters. He said he had the impression they were trying to calm tempers.