Jerusalem Haredim Protest Shabbat Opening of Intel Plant

Demonstrators attack journalists, Jerusalem deputy mayor; Intel GM: Company may leave Israel.

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators on Saturday gathered outside the Jerusalem compound of computer chip manufacturer Intel to protest the company's opening on Saturdays.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said more than 1,500 demonstrators were chanting near the Intel offices in Jerusalem, which are located in the city's Har Hotzvim industrial area.

Dozens of protesters attacked Jerusalem's deputy mayor Yitzhak Pindrus (United Torah Judaism), claiming that he has not done enough to prevent Intel from opening its plant and employing workers there on Saturdays, which they claim is a violation of the Sabbath.

The demonstrators dressed in traditional black hats and long coats, shouted Shabbes! Shabbes! - the Yiddish word for the Sabbath - while banging against one of the door's of Intel's Jerusalem office.

Some protesters were hurt after security personnel sprayed pepper spray in their faces. Other demonstrators hurled stones at and pushed journalists who were present at the scene.

Negotiations to reach a compromise between the ultra-Orthodox and Intel failed over the weekend, after the company rejected a demand to employ only non-Jewish workers on Saturdays.

The company said it would consider stopping production in Israel if protests continued. "If there are continued protests or delays in manufacturing at the Jerusalem plant, the company will be forced to close it and may also decide to leave Israel in the end," Maxine Fassberg, general manager of Intel Israel, told the ultra-Orthodox negotiators.

Religious Jews are forbidden to work on the Jewish Sabbath, and in recent months the ultra-Orthodox have become increasingly militant in enforcing the Saturday work ban.

Ultra-Orthodox protesters have previously rallied against the opening of public parking lots in Jerusalem on Saturdays. Those protests, which have continued on a near-weekly basis for months, often turn violent and end with clashes between police and protesters. Dozens of protester have been arrested.