Ultra-Orthodox demonstrators wound six policemen at protest over Shabbat
Ultra-Orthodox protesters lightly wounded six police officers yesterday during a demonstration against the Jerusalem municipality's decision to open a municipal parking lot on Shabbat.
The city opened the parking lot to accommodate weekend visitors to the city, following police reports that a lack of parking was leading to severe traffic jams around the Old City.
United Torah Judaism members on the city council did not protest the move, after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat assured them that the parking lot would not be operated by Jews and that no money would change hands on Saturdays.
Haredi communities not represented at the council denounced the decision, however. On Friday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat visited the home of Haredi leader Rabbi Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss, in an attempt to cool tensions and prevent the protests.
The sides were making progress until the meeting broke down, according to Haredi sources. Weiss then reportedly vowed to lead the protest personally.
The parking lot was open only for a few hours yesterday, before being shut down by police ahead of the protests. Hundreds of Haredi demonstrators attempted to break into the parking lot, and one person later tried to storm city hall.
The protesters threw stones and empty bottles at the police, injuring six policemen. One was taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital. The others were treated by paramedics on the spot.
Several dozen secular students from the Meretz party and the Jerusalem Awakening movement staged a counter-demonstration nearby. They were met by shouts of "Shabbes" and "Those who defile her shall be put to death."
Firing water cannons, police eventually managed to disperse the crowd. Protesters later rallied in Haredi neighborhoods around the city, torching dumpsters.
Police said 10 demonstrators were detained.
A protest organizer told a reporter from Army Radio yesterday that they would "ignite the city" and "do everything we can to prevent the opening of the parking lot."
Speaking last night, as the police were still dispersing small localized protests, Barkat said the dispute over the parking lot had brought conflicts over Shabbat back to the streets, and that the parking lot would be opened on Saturdays.
"It will be opened every Saturday. We stand behind the decision," Barkat's spokesman said.