Police, Ultra-Orthodox Jews Scuffle in Jerusalem

By: AP
By: AP

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Ultra-Orthodox Jews threw themselves under the wheels of an idling bus and in front of waiting cars to protest the opening of a parking lot on the Jewish Sabbath - an act they consider an abomination.

The municipality opened the lot on Saturdays last month to limit illegal parking in the city's ancient walled quarter. That enraged the ultra-Orthodox community and has provoked several straight weeks of protests because driving is a violation of the Sabbath under Jewish law.

Tensions between Jerusalem's religious and secular communities have been simmering for years as the ultra-Orthodox community has grown in size and influence. Secular residents say the religious are trying to impose their beliefs on Jerusalem, and the atmosphere is one reason thousands of secular Jerusalemites leave the city each year.

On Saturday, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators flooded an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood near the parking lot, screaming "Shabbes," the Yiddish word for Sabbath, and occasionally lobbing rocks at police. Officers, some in riot gear, shoved them back as they tried to break through a security cordon.

Several dozen demonstrators reached the parking lot, where one protester crawled under the wheels of a bus as it waited to enter. Police dragged out the man, who lay on his back, clutching his festive fur hat to his chest. Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said he was taken away for questioning.

Several other demonstrators lay down in the street near the lot, trying to block cars from entering. Police seized them by their arms and legs to drag them away.

No injuries were reported.

Earlier in the day, two religious Jews were stabbed and another was beaten in a predawn fight with secular Jews in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of the city, Ben-Ruby said. The three men were hospitalized with moderate wounds, he said.

Circumstances surrounding the incident were unclear. Ben-Ruby said no further details would be available until the men could be interviewed again on Saturday evening, after the Sabbath ended. The assailants fled and no one was arrested.


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