Fervently Orthodox in Israel Battle Against Chief Justice

Security around the Jerusalem home of Israel’s chief justice has been intensified as the city’s fervently Orthodox community stepped up its campaign against Aharon Barak and the Supreme Court.

An article this week in the Yeted Ne’eman newspaper, published by the Degal HaTorah Party, blasted Barak as a “dangerous enemy” of religious Jews.

The fervently Orthodox, or haredi, community has long complained that Barak and the Supreme Court have issued rulings that contravene the beliefs and needs of Orthodox Jews.

Religious Jews have assailed Barak about his rulings recognizing gay rights and women’s rights.

But the hostility toward the chief justice boiled over with the court’s recent decision to keep Bar Ilan Street, a main Jerusalem thoroughfare that passes through religious neighborhoods, open to traffic on the Sabbath.

The court’s ruling overturned a decision by Minister of Transportation Yitzhak Levy of the National Religious Party to close the street during hours of prayer on the Sabbath and religious holidays.

“Democracy is over. The people’s rule is over,” the Yeted Ne’eman article stated. Barak “decides for me and for you on what we are allowed to think and on for what we are allowed to struggle.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Barak’s defense. “We are a nation of law and the Supreme Court is a cornerstone,” he told Army Radio. “We won’t allow harm to come to this important central establishment.”

Finance Minister Dan Meridor condemned the sharp criticism of Barak.

“It is a system of grave incitement and I don’t recall anything like it,” Meridor, a former justice minister, told Israel Radio. “It is an attempt to shake the foundations of the rules of the game of Israeli society.”

Leaders of Orthodox political parties, while denouncing the use of violence, said their community had a legitimate right to voice its views.

The real issue is the “delegitimization of the religious people in Israel,” Knesset member Avraham Ravitz of the United Torah Judaism Party told Israel Radio.

Degal HaTorah is one of the two parties that makes up United Torah Judaism.

But others warned against an escalation of incitement that would spill over into violence, much like the climate that preceded the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November.

Rabin’s widow, Leah, said Barak should “fear for his life.”

The Supreme Court justices did not comment on the latest attack in the religious newspaper, but a senior source in the Supreme Court said Barak was not concerned for his personal safety.

Barak is convinced that “these attacks against himself and the court will recede, and the voices of reason in the state will overcome them,” a court source was quoted as saying in the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot.

The source said Barak was determined to preserve the rule of law in Israel and that “no individual will scare him.”

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