End the Fanatic Violence

Operating modern industry in Israel's capital faces a test of the utmost importance in the face of this renewed Haredi offensive.

If workers entering their workplace are subjected to violent attacks, it is self-evident that the law enforcement authorities must protect them - as well as their employers - whatever day of the week it happens to be and regardless of the motive for the attacks. This did not happen at the Intel plant in Jerusalem's Har Hotzvim industrial area on Saturday. Moreover, the frenzied assaults of ultra-Orthodox extremists there were not a one-time event. The city and the state must stop trying to ignore the phenomenon.

The ability to operate modern industry in Israel's capital faces a test of the utmost importance in the face of this renewed ultra-Orthodox offensive. Jerusalem is a poor city with dwindling resources and a particularly high natural growth rate. Its residents, both religious and secular, most of whom work in government offices and public institutions or study at Hebrew University, want to lead normal and comfortable lives, but a fanatical minority whose conduct has recently become more belligerent than ever is set on making that impossible.

Mayor Nir Barkat was elected partly because he promised to promote tourism and industry in the city and to extricate it from the vicious cycle of poverty. The ultra-Orthodox extremists tried to harm tourism to the capital by violently opposing the opening of the Carta parking garage on Saturdays. Now they are trying to harm high-tech industry in the city with their violence against the Intel plant, because it employs workers on the Sabbath.

The extremists draw even relatively moderate people into unreasonable positions. Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus claimed that the "case of Intel is graver than the Carta parking garage," while others have proposed that only non-Jews should work there. The right of Shabbat observers not to have to work on the Sabbath must be protected, but if it is essential that the Intel plant operate seven days a week this must be allowed unconditionally.

Intel might conclude from the incident that it would do well to leave Jerusalem, and other companies could do the same. If the municipality and the government do not do what is necessary to foster tourism, industry and the quality of life in the capital, it will become still poorer, and backward and neglected as well, with a future that will put its past to shame.