Thursday, August 28, 2008

Secular Jews drive haredim away from park

Ultra-Orthodox Jews picnicking in park located in secular neighborhood of Jerusalem suffer verbal violence at hands of residents who blame them for 'taking up entire playground,' force them to leave.

The struggle between secular and Orthodox Jews in the capital has reached the public parks. A family of ultra-Orthodox Jews attempting to spend a relaxed day in a park located in the secular Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hakerem were driven away from the area by a number of residents.

The family arrived at the park with its children in tow on Monday evening, and attempted to have a picnic.

"The moment we arrived and sat on the benches at the entrance to the park, an elderly woman arrived and told us it wasn't nice of us to take up the entire playground for her children," one family member recounted.
"We didn't want to fight with her, but other people began arriving and yelling at us. One woman sat next to my brother-in-law so he would get up. The secular Jews surrounding us began arguing over whether or not we should leave. Some said no and some said yes."

The chaos upset the family. "The children began to cry because they were frightened by all of the yelling around us, so we went to the other end of the park where we thought we would have peace, but they just followed us," said Moti, one of the family members.

He added that when they attempted to light a small grill to prepare food they were told to put it out immediately, but even when they did so, the yelling continued.

The family then decided to leave the park.

"What bothered me was that they just wanted to make us feel bad so we would leave. I was offended, it was excessive. We heard it was a nice park and wanted to spend time there, but we've never been so offended. We were driven out because we are haredim. My family and I will never go back there," Moti concluded.

The Jerusalem Municipality responded by stating, "We strongly object to all cases of racism and violence. We hold educational programs aiming to encourage coexistence and a dialogue among the different sectors of society in the city."

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