July 25, 2009

Jewish anger over Sabbath car park

by Benjamin Graham

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews clashed with Israeli police in a Jerusalem car park this weekend in a row over a car park being open on the Sabbath.

The protesters fear the car park opening is the first step towards shops being allowed to trade on the holy day.

Wearing traditional Hassidic clothing, the protesters threw stones, over-ran police barricades, and lay in the road in an attempt to block vehicles from using the car park.

One man was taken away by police after being removed from underneath an idling bus.

The protests, branded the ‘Shabbat wars’ in the Jerusalem media, highlight rising tensions in Jerusalem between the growing community of Orthodox Jews, and secular city residents and local authorities.

Demonstrators say the car park, which opened last month and has attracted protests each Sabbath since then, will attract tourists to the area and encourage businesses to trade on the holy day.

During the Sabbath, or ‘Shabbat’ in Hebrew, driving, working, handling money, and using electronic devices are forbidden to ultra-Orthodox Jews.

In a related incident in Jerusalem this weekend, two religious Jews were stabbed and another was beaten during a fight with secular Jews.

The assailants fled the scene, and no arrests have yet been made, police said.

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