Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

22 Av 5759 - August 4, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Police Officials Say Meretz Activists Unnecessarily Provocative on Shabbos

by Betzalel Kahn and Mordecai Plaut

Jerusalem's Police Department officials sharply criticized Meretz politicians and activists for causing excessive and unnecessary provocation and contention in their fight against the justified demands of chareidi residents to close traffic routes in the hearts of their neighborhoods on Shabbos.

Every week recently, activists from Meretz and other Leftist parties instigate provocation against the chareidi public with their loud and militant anti-religious declarations, which result in unnecessary tension among the various sectors of the city. According to the police, Meretz is one of the bigoted parties that are trying to fan the Shabbos wars in Jerusalem.

Meretz's general secretary, Chanan Erez, sent a sharp letter protesting the criticism. Erez claims that Meretz hasn't demonstrated for a number of weeks, at the request of President Weitzman and of Jerusalem Police Chief Yitzchaki himself. "Now that we've returned to the area full force, no one in the Police Department has the right to criticize us the over the fact that we do not and never will make peace with the religious coercion and blackmailing of the chareidim in Jerusalem and elsewhere."

Chareidi public figures said that Erez's remarks are very surprising, since the Leftist parties sent thugs to Bar Ilan Road and Ethiopia Street to beat chareidi residents who seek to close those routes on Shabbosim and prevent Shabbos desecration. "Who is behaving violently, if not the Leftist activists, who nonetheless dare to claim that the chareidim are trying to `blackmail' the secular?" they asked.

Rabbinical Response

The Rabbinical Committee for Shabbos Observance in Jerusalem and throughout the country met last week about the breaches of Shabbos throughout the country, and particularly those in Jerusalem.

The committee discussed the fact that Shabbos desecration rapidly becoming widespread, in the opening of stores and supermarkets, malls and large shopping centers for the non- observant community throughout the country.

A number of people who appeared before the committee pointed out the serious breaches in Shabbos observance at many vacation and tourist sites. They noted that the chareidi community is unaware of the fact that these places desecrate the Shabbos, and that when they patronize them, they are indirectly abetting the Shabbos desecraters.

The rabbinical committee decided to inform the gedolei Yisroel of these facts, and, after listening to the representatives of the rabbinical committee, gedolei Yisroel decided to reissue the letter they wrote last year, in which they beseech all yirei Hashem and all those to whom Shabbos is dear, not to patronize places or stores which desecrate the Shabbos.

The letter reads:

"To our great sorrow, the breaches in the bris olom are becoming widespread, and the sanctity of the Shabbos is being increasingly violated at shopping malls, cooperative stores, factories, companies and sites all over the country. How grievous is the fact that there are Shabbos-observant Jews who pay no heed to this breach and they patronize and visit these stores, sites and malls which desecrate the Shabbos. Therefore we once more call on all who fear Hashem's word and who are concerned about the sanctity of Shabbos, and beseech them not to patronize places which desecrate the Shabbos, and to prefer places where Shabbos is observed. By this, the honor of Shomayim and the honor of Shabbos kodesh will be increased."

The letter was singed by Maran, HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, the Vishnitzer Rebbe, the Gerrer Rebbe and HaRav Aharon Yehuda Leib Steinman.

Problems on Ethiopia Street

Ethiopia Street and Chazanovitch Street are two narrow streets (almost alleyways) that lead off of Haneviim Street in the direction of Strauss Street and Meah Shearim. Normally, they are both one way in opposite directions. All the residents of Chazanovitch Street are shomer Shabbos, as are many of the residents of Ethiopia Street, though the latter has some residents who are not shomer Shabbos. Many of the homes are large and some have beautiful yards, separated from the streets by high walls.

Since the residents of Chazanovitch Street are all shomer Shabbos, the city decided to close it to traffic on Shabbos. In order to do so, it was necessary to declare Ethiopia Street open to traffic in both directions. Since that street is so narrow, many of the non-religious residents protested that it cannot handle two-way traffic.

The area has been the scene of strife and protests by both religious and non-religious protesters for several weeks. Last week, the police department beefed up patrols at Ethiopia Street to prevent secular groups from harming Orthodox demonstrators who were on hand to protest Shabbos desecration.

There was also an increased police presence at the Sanhedria intersection of Bar-Ilan Street that has also been a scene of provocative demonstrations by Shinui for several weeks, and chareidi counter-demonstrations, mostly by children.

In response to a suit filed by Arnon Yekutieli, the chairman of the Leftist faction Jerusalem Now, along with Ethiopia Street's nonobservant residents, the High Court issued an interim order cancelling the decision of the Jerusalem municipality closing Chazanovitch Street and making Ethiopia Street two way. In an upsetting display of chutzpah, Yekutieli charged that the city's decision was in fearful response to chareidi violence while in fact the instigators of violence in that area have been the secular hooligans paid and brought in as a provocative measure.

One of the chareidi residents, who was beaten with a club, had to undergo an operation on his foot. It should be noted that the violent assaults of the thugs were not mentioned by the secular media at all, even though it did not take place in secret and there were many reports. They drive wildly up and down the narrow streets.

UTJ's chairman, Rabbi Meir Porush reacted to the High Court's decision, saying: "The High Court repeated the mistake it made two years ago regarding the Bar Ilan Road, when it once more forbade closing streets in chareidi neighborhoods where everyone observes Shabbos. The High Court, which in the end accepted the decision of the public committee regarding Bar Ilan Road, will be forced to do the same regarding these streets. Shabbos isn't a legal matter, and final decisions pertaining to its observance will not be made in the courts."

Deputy mayor Rabbi Uri Maklev said in reaction: "The continued rulings of the Supreme Court against religion have resulted in a new phenomenon in which the non-religious file petitions to a non-religious High Court, which then cancels and scorns all laws pertaining to religion. It defends the rights of the secular, but not those of the chareidim. A new phenomenon called `secular coercion' has arisen. Our community, boruch Hashem grows from year to year, from election to election. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court pays absolutely no attention to this fact, and the situation continues to degenerate."

Turbine Transport Not on Shabbos

Chareidi activists, and especially MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, were instrumental in postponing the transport of a 250 ton turbine manufactured by Israel Army Industries in Ramat Hasharon to its place of use in an electric generating plant in Ashkelon. The huge turbine has to be moved at a maximum speed of five kilometers per hour, and it blocks three lanes of traffic. Planners expect the project to take nine hours. The move involves considerable numbers of police for traffic control.

Rabbi Gafni asked Rabbi Suissa, who is Infrastructure Minister, to postpone the well-publicized moved from Shabbos to another day. Police originally recommended the time because traffic is very sparse then. Rabbi Gafni asked the police to reconsider, which they did.

Chareidi observers noted that it only requires a modest amount of good will to plan the move for another time of minimal traffic, such as the late night and early morning hours. If necessary, they said, the move could be done in stages.

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