A Guda Threatens to Leave Jerusalem Council over Municipal Stadium
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A Guda Threatens to Leave Jerusalem Council over Municipal Stadium

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The Agudat Israel faction announced last night that it was withdrawing from the Jerusalem municipal council’s coalition. Only if work stopped on the new municipal stadium at Shuafat by this Sunday would the five Aguda members reconsider their walk-out, Aguda officials declared (One of the five, Shlomo Zalman Druck, represents Poalei Aguda, but he appears to be lining up with Aguda on this issue.)

The stadium has incurred the wrath and hostility of Orthodox Jerusalemites living in the capital’s northern suburbs. They say it will disturb their Shabbat peace. Almost all of these suburbs are populated almost entirely by Orthodox residents who almost all vote for Aguda.

The stadium is going up just beyond the outer fringes of the suburbs, which include Matersdorf, Sanhedria Murhevet, Zanz, Itri and Habad. The residents argue that their streets will inevitably become thoroughfares for hundreds of vehicles and rowdy football ###ans each Saturday afternoon.

Interior Ministry planners have recently suggested to Mayor Teddy Kollek two possible alternative sites for the stadium, in the south of Jerusalem. The municipality has already turned down one of them as unsuitable and Kollek has said he will refuse now to consider the merits of the other unless the ultra-Orthodox cease their violent, almost daily, demonstrations against him.

These demonstrations–against the stadium and against the Ramat Road which connects the northern suburb of Ramot to the town proper and is used on the Sabbath–have grown into rowdy daily occurrence now that the yeshivot have recessed for the summer vacation.


The situation is complicated by the fact that the demonstrations–and particularly the weekly clashes between stone-throwing zealots and policeman on the Ramot Road–are led by ultra-Orthodox figures who take no orders from Aguda. On the contrary, such men as Rabbi Uri Blau and Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, leaders of the Naturei Karta, brand Aguda as traitors: Their activities constitute a permanent pressure upon Aguda to step up its own anti-stadium activities.

Aguda’s leader on the town council is Rabbi Shmuel Shaulson, but the party’s undisputed power broker in the capital is Knesseter Menahem Porush. Porush warned last night that if Aguda’s walkout indeed becomes final, the party will be “a fighting opposition” doing its utmost to bring down Kollek.

Kollek himself has the direct support of 16 of the municipal council’s 31 members. They are united in a broad-based grouping named One Jerusalem and ran in the 1977 elections essentially on a “Support Teddy” ticket. But Porush claimed that several of them are becoming disenchanted with the Mayor and so Kollek could lose his majority.

This would depend, of course, however, on a denial of support for Kollek by the Likud faction on the council. On the stadium issue, at least, Likud leader. Yehoshua Matza is every bit as keen on building the facility in Shuafat as is the mayor, and thus it is difficult to see them splitting over this issue.

Nevertheless, impartial observers predict that the stadium may yet be moved from Shuafat to a southern Jerusalem site–because of the Orthodox pressures at home and abroad, and because neither Kollek nor Likud really want a running collision with Jerusalem’s large Orthodox community if the problem can be resolved satisfactorily in an alternative way.

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