Letter Regarding Shabbat Demonstrations
This is a notice written in 1954 by the mayor of Jerusalem, Yitzhak Kariv, calling for an end to the riots regarding Shabbat observance in the city. The letter informs residents that a committee will be appointed to examine the issue and restore peace to Jerusalem. The notice is directed at all residents of Jerusalem from all sectors, requesting them to respect the city’s sanctity and refrain from any actions which cause tension. At the end of the letter, the mayor notes the holiness and centrality of Jerusalem for all Israelis.
Both before and since the establishment of the state of Israel, demonstrations have been organised by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, protesting the desecration of Shabbat. The demonstrations in Jerusalem have always been especially large, vocal, and sometimes violent due to its large ultra-Orthodox population and special status as a holy city.
The JTA (Jewish Telegraph Agency) reported the clashes that took place in Jerusalem on November 23, 1954:
Premier Moshe Sharett will personally investigate the recent clashes in Jerusalem arising from attempts by ultra-Orthodox elements to prevent the movement of traffic on the Sabbath, he told the Cabinet.
Mr. Sharett’s intervention came after a clash here Saturday when a group of young men from towns in the Jerusalem area came into town in trucks and clashed with religious groups attempting to block traffic.
Minister for Religion Moshe Shapiro, who raised the issue at the Cabinet meeting, said that the settlement youth had invaded several synagogues but had been thrust out by the worshippers. He said it was “intolerable” that anybody but the police should deal with the religious demonstrators.
Yitzhak Kariv, a member of the religious-Zionist Mizrachi party, served as the mayor of Jerusalem from 1952 to 1955.
Sociology and Civics teachers can use this source to discuss the ongoing tensions between te religious and secular populations in Israel regarding areas of Jewish law and the separation between religion and state. This letter can also be used to explore the democratic right of protest and its limitations.
Jewish Studies teachers can use this letter to present topics such as Israel’s ultra-Orthodox population, the safeguarding of Shabbat and other religious values, and the special status of Jerusalem.
What is this source?
Who wrote the letter?
When was it written?
Who is the letter directed at?
What event is the letter referring to?
What is the letter’s main point?
What committee is being formed?
Reading Between the Lines
Why did the Jerusalem municipality publish such a notice?
Why were the ultra-Orthodox demonstrating?
How is the relationship between the ultra-Orthodox and secular populations in Israel today?
Do such protests still take place in Israel?
The Status Quo Agreement was signed by David Ben-Gurion and the Chazon Ish (Rabbi Karelitz) in 1947, granting control of Shabbat, Kashrut, and family laws to the Orthodox Rabbinate.
Does this agreement still exist today, and do you agree with it?
Arrange a class debate on the importance of closing public areas and buildings on Shabbat.
Ensure that all perspectives are represented: ultra-Orthodox, modern-Orthodox, and secular.
Take a vote at the end as to which side was more persuasive.
The municipality committee discussed on the 10th Kislev 5715 (5.12.54) the latest events in the capital, and with fear for the peace of Jerusalem and its honour, we have decided to demand all parts of the population to cease from unruliness in the city.
The municipality has established a three-member committee…that will investigate the matter and act to bring true peace to the capital.
We hereby request every citizen of Jerusalem to protect the quiet of the city and refrain from any action which will disrupt the peace and honour of Jerusalem, the holy city.
The eyes of the entire people of Israel are raised towards the religious, spiritual, national, and political centre of our country.
We will safeguard the holy character of Jerusalem, the city of the Temple and the monarchy, the eternal capital of the nation.