Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Viva La Theocracy! (The Jerusalem Edition)

Getty Images: Darren Whiteside

Like any respectable religious sect, Orthodox Jews have odd beliefs, wear funny hats, and want to impose their personal beliefs on perfect strangers:

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.


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.


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