JERUSALEM (Aug. 18)
Thousands of fervently Orthodox Jews demonstrated over the weekend to protest a decision by Israel’s High Court of Justice allowing a main thoroughfare in Jerusalem to remain open to traffic on the Sabbath.
Saturday’s protests passed peacefully, and there were no major clashes with police, as had happened in previous demonstrations.
Two cars were damaged by rock-throwers, and some demonstrators overturned garbage cans and threw garbage and soiled diapers at police.
In a 6-1 decision last week, the high court barred the closure of Bar Ilan Street to Sabbath traffic and called for the formation of a committee to examine the issue.
The presence of Sabbath traffic on Bar Ilan, which cuts through fervently Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem, has led to a series of often violent demonstrations in recent weeks.
It has become a hot-button issue on both sides of the religious divide, with fervently Orthodox Jews seeking laws that will respect the Sabbath and religious holidays. Secular Jews view such laws as an infringement on their freedom.
On Saturday, the street was closed to traffic for close to an hour, but not because of the demonstrators.
Police ordered the closure for the unexpected arrival of Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani, who rankled local police officials for not coordinating the visit ahead of time.
Kahalani said he made the visit to meet with members of the community in an effort to create tolerance among religious and secular Israelis alike.
Kahalani visited a synagogue and promised to look into the concerns of the fervently Orthodox community.
When he got into his car, some demonstrators asked him to wait a half hour until the Sabbath ended.
When the minister opted to drive off, demonstrators shouted, “Shabbos, Shabbos,” as they do at other motorists driving on the Sabbath.