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Sabbath Wars – Episode Three; The Counter Demonstration

27-June-2009, Jerusalem – Less than 24 hours and riots against the Shabbath opening of the Karta parking lot erupted once again, disrupting the serenity of Jerusalem on Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of ultra-orthodox Haredim clashed with police in the Mea She’arim neighborhood, at the corner of Hanevi’im and Shivtei Israel streets. Police prevented the rioters from making their way toward Municipal Safra Square, where hundreds of secular residents of the city held a colorful counter demonstration in support of freedom of choice in Jerusalem and against religious coercion.

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Sabbath Wars – Episode Two

26-June-2009, Jerusalem – Just two weeks after a violent demonstration in the Safra Municipal Square in Jerusalem (6-June-2009), thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews have taken to the streets of Jerusalem once again. Bar-Ilan Street is depicted in mass public prayer on Friday afternoon, just as sunset declared the beginning of the Sabbath.

The issue of opening a parking lot on the Sabbath continues to be a source of conflict between secular Mayor Nir Barkat and the religious Haredi community in the city. During the past two weeks negotiations took place in an attempt to find a compromise that would satisfy all parties and provide a solution for Jerusalem’s extreme Sabbath parking problems. When the desired compromise was not achieved, Barkat announced the Karta parking lot would open this Saturday. Ultra-orthodox leader, Rabbi Itzchak Tuvia Weiss called on the Haredi community, using written pamphlets scattered in the streets, to assemble Friday afternoon in mass public prayers and to welcome the Sabbath in a show of force and opposition of municipal resolutions.

Episode III this Saturday afternoon …?

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Sabbath Wars – Episode One

6-June-2009, Jerusalem – Thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews demonstrated today opposing the directive given by Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, to open the Safra parking lot on the Sabbath. On the opposing side several dozens of students and non-observant residents came to have their say carrying signs reading “Terror is not only from Hammas”, “This is not Tehran!” and singing the Israeli National Anthem stressing the words “to be a free people in our country, the land of Zion, Jerusalem”.

Municipal parking lots have been closed on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, for years, corresponding with a status quo between the secular and religious communities of Jerusalem. The Safra parking lot, located under City Hall at Safra Square, serves the downtown Jerusalem area as well as thousands of visitors and tourists in the Old City. The move to open the parking lot on Saturdays corresponds to Barkat’s line opposing religious coercion and in an attempt to offer a solution to the extreme parking problems surrounding the Old City and the Jaffa Gate. Trying to control religious outrage the municipality decided not to collect fees for parking on the Sabbath, as opposed by Jewish law, but diplomatic efforts were not successful.

Rabbi Itzchak Tuvia Weiss, head of the ultra-orthodox community was quoted this week saying “We will light the city on fire for the sanctity of Jerusalem!” and he did indeed light a fire in the hearts of his followers. Thousands gathered on Shivtei Israel Street, near the parking lot entrance, chanting “Shabbes, Shabbes!” (Sabbath) at the top of their lungs as well as “Nazis!” to policemen. The Jerusalem Police exhibited great restraint in light of extreme verbal and physical provocation until the order came down the ranks to disperse the demonstration. In summary; six policemen injured, one injured photographer and seven demonstrators arrested.

Sidenote: Images displayed shot solely with Canon G10. After months of greatly enjoying this camera it disappointed shooting under rapidly changing conditions and events; very slow zoom in/out reaction, very slow to impossible shooting in rapid succession, burnt highlights.  Shooting at this demonstration may have caused an unrepairable dent in my G10 love affair…

8-June-2009 – Sabbath Wars on Telegraph (UK), Le Monde (France), Future News (Lebanon) and the Himalayan Times (Nepal) Internet sites via Demotix Widget

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