Ultra-Orthodox and police - Olivier Fitoussi - July 2011
Ultra-Orthodox protestors clashing with police on Jerusalem's Neviim Street on Saturday. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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A group of closed to 800 ultra-Orthodox protestors tried to block a central Jerusalem thoroughfare on Saturday, in an attempt to prevent the desecration of Shabbat.

Police arrived on horseback to disperse the crowd on the central Neviim Street, using a water-spraying vehicle to push the ultra-Orthodox protesters back toward the curb and allow traffic to resume. Protesters yelled out "Shabbos" and "Nazis" and threw objects as police remained in the vicinity to keep the peace.

Earlier this week, Jerusalem District Commander Niso Shaham requested that secular activists refrain from protesting ultra-Orthodox attempts to close off the road, explaining that this would only fuel tensions. The commander pledged to take the necessary measures to ensure traffic would flow as usual on the central Jerusalem road.

Saturday’s events come just days after ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim residents set fire to trash cans and hurled rocks at police officers to protest the shutting down of an illegal slaughterhouse. Six policemen were wounded in the fray.

Neviim Street, a central Jerusalem road, is one of the most important avenues of transportation in the capital, particularly since the closure of Yaffo Road to traffic in recent years. Neviim also serves as a border between ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and the cultural and shopping center of the city.

Secular residents claim that the police are turning a blind eye to ultra-Orthodox efforts to block traffic on the street every Saturday, with hundreds of religious men often resorting to violence in a bid to prevent cars from desecrating Shabbat.

Although police have successfully prevented the total closure of Neviim Street in the past, secular drivers have complained of ultra-Orthodox zealots kicking, hitting, and throwing bottles on their cars when they attempt to drive through the street.