November 29, 2009

Religious, secular Israelis hold opposing protests

JERUSALEM, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Several hundred Israelis protested in Jerusalem on Saturday against a campaign by ultra-Orthodox Jews to shutter all businesses in the city on the sabbath.

The protest reflected tensions between Israel's secular majority and an Orthodox minority that wants the Jewish state to follow ancient laws barring driving or working on the sabbath.

Police said there was no violence as hundreds marched in the predominantly Jewish western part of Jerusalem, waving blue and white Israeli flags and holding placards reading "Jerusalem will not fall," and "We are sick of (religious) coercion".

Earlier on Saturday dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews had protested outside Intel Corp's electronic chip plant in the city, demanding it cease operating on the sabbath.

In a separate protest, dozens of religious Jews demonstrated to demand the authorities shut a public parking lot near the old walled city of Jerusalem on the day of rest, which begins at sundown on Friday.

Protests by the ultra-Orthodox have taken place on nearly a weekly basis, occasionally spilling over into violence, in what appears to be an attempt by some rabbis to reassert influence after a religious mayor lost a hotly contested 2008 election. (Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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