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Jews Continue Protest Police Use Water Cannons On Ultra-Orthodox Crowd

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews hurled garbage and stones Saturday at a convoy of cars driving down a Jerusalem street that has become a symbol of the increasingly bitter battle between religious and secular Israelis.

It was the second day of stonethrowing protests by Jews outraged by a court ruling Friday that blocked a government order to close Bar Ilan Street for the Jewish Sabbath.

Police sprayed water from cannons to disperse about 5,000 protesters, prompting cries from the crowd of “Nazis! Nazis!” Mounted police charged and clubbed demonstrators to keep them from blocking the disputed street, which runs through an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

Most of the motorists were secular rights activists from the left-wing Meretz Party, who drove down the street to show their support for keeping it open.

By the end of the evening, 13 demonstrators had been arrested.

The crowd punched one policeman in the face and beat two undercover officers who had tried to disguise themselves as ultra-Orthodox Jews. Jerusalem’s police chief rescued them himself.

Protesters also broke a motorcyclist’s hand, and pelted film crews with rocks.

One Meretz activist, 25-year-old Eitan, gripped the steering wheel of his car as he drove up and down the hostile street. In defiance of the Sabbath laws, which bar most activities on the Jewish day of rest, he also turned on his car stereo and smoked a cigarette.

“This city is dying because of them, and they are masking their violence behind God,” said Eitan, who would give only his first name.

About 70 percent of the Jews in Israel are secular and 30 percent are observant.

On the other side of the divide was 62-year-old Sylvia Feldman, who said the Meretz activists were needlessly provoking the people in her neighborhood. “This is leading to a civil war,” she said.

“The Sabbath is holy to the Jews. If these aren’t Jews, they shouldn’t be here,” said another ultra-Orthodox woman, Rachel, as she watched the convoy with her four children.

Protesters threw garbage and stones at about 50 cars, which bore stickers reading “Bar Ilan will not close.” Some people standing on rooftops and balconies yelled “Shabbes, Shabbes,” the Yiddish word for Sabbath.

Bar Ilan Street has been the site of frequent violent demonstrations by ultra-Orthodox in recent years. The fate of the thoroughfare has become a symbol for the “culture war” between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government of right-wing and religious parties ordered the street closed during most of the Jewish Sabbath.

Secular rights activists appealed to the Supreme Court, which issued a temporary injunction Friday and scheduled a hearing on the issue for the end of July.

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