Ultra-orthodox Protest on Sabbath Against New Highway Turns Violent

Four policemen were hospitalized for injuries sustained Saturday during a violent demonstration by ultra-Orthodox Jews protesting the use by Sabbath drivers of a new highway that runs near their neighborhoods.

Several policemen and two news cameramen were struck by rocks. One of the protesters was hospitalized, a number were hurt and several were arrested by the police.

The fracas erupted suddenly from what began as a peaceful demonstration by local residents with a police permit. Leaders of the religious community, who had promised there would be no violence, apparently lost control.

Young religious activists knocked down police barriers and hurled rocks at passing cars. No drivers were reported injured or cars damaged.

Jerusalem Police Chief Haim Albaldes said his forces were under orders to exercise maximum restraint. But when the situation got out of hand, mounted police entered the fray using clubs.

One of the leaders of the demonstration, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, complained that there had been no need for such measures.

The police had tear gas and water canon on hand, but neither was used. Some Arabs complained that the police had never showed such restraint dealing with Arab disturbances. But most Arab residents watched the spectacle with a mixture of astonishment and amusement.

Police Minister Ronni Milo praised the police for showing “overall restraint.” He warned, however, that a repetition of the violence would be met by “aggressive” police measures.

Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek said the demonstrators “violated both the law and the call of their own rabbis.” But he suggested they were only a minority within the religious community.

The new highway, which cuts the distance between downtown Jerusalem and the northern suburbs, opened Oct. 1 to a chorus of protests and threats by ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose neighborhoods it skirts.

Kollek pointed out that the highway does not pass through any religious neighborhood.

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