Today, there are so many pressing stories in the news here in the Middle East concerning Israel – but none are such a threat to Israel as this problem – being summed up in the Hebrew press as Religion vs. State.
What is happening right now is that, we have 15,000 + Ultra Orthodox men protesting in an area of Tel Aviv, and another 50,000 + protesting here in Jerusalem over 86 Haredi parents going to jail.
The reason is a feud at a school in a settlement called Emmanuel. The conflict is between Ashkenazi (for the simplest term; 'western' Orthodox Jews) and Sephardi (eastern Othodox Jews). The Ashkenazi do not wish to mix their daughters with the Sephardi, who they see as less 'pure' in this state funded religious girls school. The High Court ordered the girls to attend school – the parents refused – and are now going to jail for two weeks.
Thus, the Ultra Orthodox community has ordered what they called the “Mother of all demonstrations”, and at this hour the number is growing to the tens of thousands demonstrating at several points.
Last night we had violent riots in Jaffa where several police and demonstrators were hurt, and fires burning in the religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Both Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres called for calm.
The Israeli Press are calling it a case of racism, which threatens the democracy of the country. 10,000 Police have been mobilized and deployed throughout the country for this massive and potentially violent protest.
As for the parents of the Ashkenazi girls from Emanuel: They say that they will wear their holiday attire and go to jail.
Middle East Correspondent