Haredim stone police car in Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Post/September 1, 2009

A police patrol car was stoned Tuesday as relations between Jerusalem law enforcement and Jewish zealots continued to deteriorate in the wake of violent clashes in the nation's capital.

The police car arrived at a residence on David Yellin Street in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood Tuesday morning to break up a domestic quarrel, according to a police spokesman.

But instead of dealing with the quarrel, police were forced to confront haredim who pelted the police car with rocks. Police combed the area in a failed attempt to apprehend the attackers.

"Why shouldn't we stone them after the way they have treated us", responded Shmuel Poppenheim, a spokesman for the Eda Haredit, a coalition of Hassidic sects that includes Satmar, Toldot Aharon, Breslav and Dushinsky, which has spearheaded demonstrations in Jerusalem in protest against the opening of a parking lot on Shabbat.

The relations between the police and the haredim have seriously deteriorated over the past several days in the wake of two incidents in which haredi demonstrators were run over.

On Friday evening, during the largest demonstrations yet to be staged since the opening of the parking lot two months ago, a haredi man named Kapil Schwartz was run over by an Arab driver.

The haredi public is convinced, rightly or not, that the Arab was forced by police to drive forward, intentionally causing him to hit Schwartz.

Schwartz is still hospitalized.

In another incident Sunday night, Ya'acov Klein, who is affiliated with the Satmar Hassidic sect, was run down when he attempted to block a police car from leaving the scene of a stabbing homicide with the body of a deceased man.

Haredi demonstrators believed the man was being brought to Abu Kabir Forensic Institute for an autopsy. Performing an autopsy unless absolutely necessary is considered strictly forbidden and a desecration of the dead by many haredi rabbis.

Klein was seriously wounded and is also still hospitalized. Police used stun grenades, tear gas, pepper gas and shot live ammunition into to air to disperse several hundred haredim who congregated around the scene of the stabbing.

"Haredi blood had become devalued in the eyes of the police," Poppenheim said.

"They have made no attempt to investigate the incidents. They refuse to give an account. We are really afraid for our lives."

Meanwhile, Haim Cohen, a spokesman for Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, considered the preeminent halachic authority of Ashkenazi haredi Jewry, said that while he did not want to comment on the justification for the demonstrations, he accused the police of purposely escalating the tensions in Jerusalem to detract from criticism voiced against law enforcement authorities for not doing enough to fight a wave of violence.

"It is interesting that deterioration of the situation in Jerusalem comes just a week after the police were so severely criticized by the media for not protecting Israelis from hooliganism," he said.

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