July 11, 2009 / 6:06 PM / 10 years ago

Israeli police drag away ultra-Orthodox protesters

JERUSALEM, July 11 (Reuters) - Israeli police dragged away ultra-Orthodox men who blocked traffic by sitting on a road outside the old walled city of Jerusalem on Saturday, in protest against a public parking lot now open on the Jewish Sabbath.

A police spokesman said one of several dozen protesters was arrested for lying under a bus. Television cameras photographed some half a dozen protesters being pulled away by their collars from the centre of the road.

The protests spread to an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood where police on horseback confronted dozens of angry men in traditional black robes.

There were no reported injuries in the demonstrations that pointed up persisting tensions between Israel’s secular Jewish population and a minority of Orthodox Jews that lobbies to keep businesses shut on Saturday, a day they regard as holy.

The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, angered Orthodox Israelis by disrupting a so-called status quo to permit the lot to remain open on the Sabbath so as to relieve traffic congestion at a popular tourist destination.

Most shops in Jewish parts of Jerusalem are shuttered on the Sabbath in deference to the Orthodox.

Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, is also at the heart of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Israel has annexed Arab East Jerusalem, captured in a 1967 war, as part of its capital, a move not recognised internationally.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as capital of a future state that they seek for the Gaza Strip and Israeli-occupied West Bank.

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