Report: Reporter Feels Chareidi Mob’s Hate in the Holy City


protest1ABC Australia reports: ABC Australia’s Middle East correspondent Anne Barker became caught in violent street protests involving ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem at the weekend. This is her graphic account of her ordeal:

As a journalist I’ve covered more than my share of protests. Political protests in Canberra. Unions protesting for better conditions. Angry, loud protests against governments, or against perceived abuses of human rights.

I’ve been at violent rallies in East Timor. I’ve had rocks and metal darts thrown my way. I’ve come up against riot police.

But I have to admit no protest – indeed no story in my career – has distressed me in the way I was distressed at a protest in Jerusalem on Saturday involving several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews.

This particular protest has been going on for weeks.

Orthodox Jews are angry at the local council’s decision to open a municipal carpark on Saturdays – or Shabbat, the day of rest for Jews.

It’s a day when Jews are not supposed to do anything resembling work, which can include something as simple as flicking a switch, turning on a light or driving.

So even opening a simple carpark to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting Jerusalem’s Old City is highly offensive to Orthodox Jews because it’s seen as a desecration of the Shabbat, by encouraging people to drive.

I was aware that earlier protests had erupted into violence on previous weekends – Orthodox Jews throwing rocks at police, or setting rubbish bins alight, even throwing dirty nappies or rotting rubbish at anyone they perceive to be desecrating the Shabbat.

But I never expected their anger would be directed at me.

I was mindful I would need to dress conservatively and keep out of harm’s way. But I made my mistake when I parked the car and started walking towards the protest, not fully sure which street was which.

By the time I realised I’d come up the wrong street it was too late.

I suddenly found myself in the thick of the protest – in the midst of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in their long coats and sable-fur hats.

They might be supremely religious, but their behaviour – to me – was far from charitable or benevolent.

As the protest became noisier and the crowd began yelling, I took my recorder and microphone out of my bag to record the sound.

Suddenly the crowd turned on me, screaming in my face. Dozens of angry men began spitting on me.

I found myself herded against a brick wall as they kept on spitting – on my face, my hair, my clothes, my arms.

It was like rain, coming at me from all directions – hitting my recorder, my bag, my shoes, even my glasses.

Big gobs of spit landed on me like heavy raindrops. I could even smell it as it fell on my face.

Somewhere behind me – I didn’t see him – a man on a stairway either kicked me in the head or knocked something heavy against me.

I wasn’t even sure why the mob was angry with me. Was it because I was a journalist? Or a woman? Because I wasn’t Jewish in an Orthodox area? Was I not dressed conservatively enough?

In fact, I was later told, it was because using a tape-recorder is itself a desecration of the Shabbat even though I’m not Jewish and don’t observe the Sabbath.

It was lucky that I don’t speak Hebrew. At least I was spared the knowledge of whatever filth they were screaming at me.

As I tried to get away I found myself up against the line of riot police blocking the crowd from going any further.

Israeli police in their flak jackets and helmets, with rifles and shields, were yelling just as loudly back at the protesting crowd.

For once I found them something of a reassurance against the angry, spitting mob.

I was allowed through, away from the main protest, although there were still Orthodox Jews on the other side, some of whom also yelled at me, in English, to take my recorder away.

Normally I should have stayed on the sidelines to watch the protest develop.

But when you’ve suffered the humiliation and degradation of being spat on so many times – and you’re covered in other people’s spit – it’s not easy to put it to the back of your mind and get on with the job.

I left down a side street and walked the long way back to the car, struggling to hold back the tears.

And the irony is that my recorder, whose use had so offended the mob, had a dodgy flash card in it.

I hadn’t been able to record a thing at all.

For all my illicit “work”, I went home with nothing.

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  1. If this is true (and I hope it’s not) we are in serious, serious trouble.

    It’s time for our Gedolim to come out on the street and see what’s happening, rather than rely on second-hand reports. Would Rav Schach ztz’l have permitted this? The previous Gerrer Rebbe?

    What are they teaching in the yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel that this can happen?

  2. Imagine if this would happen in NY, Iran, Gaza.. Would she be alive? It was a Chillul Hashem – but she should see the positive – and come better informed next time about her chillul Shabbos rules – (when in Rome…)
    She was spit at – but not hurt (Yes, there was one idiot – who pushed her) She also did not say she was scared for her life. No where else can you provoke a mob and get away with it like she did! Mi kiamcha Yisroel!
    And… now she is a hero because she was wronged.

  3. There’s always people taking advantage and enjoying a Maarucha Lshem Shumayim.

    That doesn’t mean that the Gedolim are wrong…!

    The Eida HaChareidis Headed by Rav Weiss and Rav Sternbuch are Gedolim too… They have a Daas Torah too…

    look in Last week’s Parshas Bulok: Pinchas did what he did, cuz ????? ?????, ????? ?????? ?? this means that even if al pi halacha Bes Din wouldn’t dan him lemisa , But ????? ????? ??…

    Please Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying that the above story – which al pi halacha I can’t be mekabel- is right, I’m just saying that there are always crooks, and this doesn’t matter too much when it comes to Chilul Shabbos.

  4. We must stop blaming the Rabbonim and begin to realize that this poor woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She deserves an apology and an explanation. Many times the secular media comes to these events to degrate and sow hatred toward the Frum community. She was obviously not. They did not know this. They should have done some more investigating, and should never have spat at another human. On behalf of all American people sitting at our computers with plenty of time and relaxation for afterthought we apologize. We ought to stop blaming and start teaching our children!

  5. The late Peshvorske Reebe once told a story.
    Rebbe R’ Binem once asked. Why in Germany the the youth fell away, asimilation went up so fast, in contrast to Poland?
    Answer: cuz in germany when someone started to open his store on Shabat, there would be meetings asking him nicely Please don’t be mechalel Shabat, but CHAS VSHOLEM no Machuas, Violance etc.
    By us in Poland – the rebbe R’ Binem Says: if someone tries to open his store on Shabat, they Break his store windows vchuli….
    ?????: ??? ????? ??? ???? ?? ????? ??? ??????, ??? ??? ??? ???? ?? ???? ?????…

    REMEMBER!! The Mayor [and his Council Members – who quitly approved this Chilul Shabat] are Yidden, and there’s a CHIYUV MACHUA (atleast in the views of the Eida Hahreidis and their Gedolim)

  6. Shrek, you forgot. She isn’t Jewish. There was no chillul Shabbos on her part. She didn’t realize that according to halacha, one isn’t allowed to use a tape recorder. Maybe if someone calmly explained that to her, she would have put it away. You say “Mi kamacha ysroel” for her provoking a mob and not getting hurt? Spitting is not insulting? Yoshor Koach, we’re not like the Palestinians in Ramallah who strung up and butchered two Israelis. That’s not good enough. We’re supposed to be a “light unto the nations.” This behavior on the part of the hassidim was dispicable. Protest, yes, but peacefully, and without name-calling or SPITTING. Ask the chassidim how they would feel if they were spat upon. Obviously, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not part of their vocabulary. For Shame!


  8. Mordy. take in the picture that the secular jews came with a counter demonstration, and hear comes one of them (atleast they thought so) over to their side with a recorder making provocations.

    Lets be Dan lekaf Zchus (even if he’s not one of your own…)