Orthodox Jews protest Saturday shift at Intel

An ultra-orthodox Jew is detained by Israeli police outside Intel's office in Jerusalem on Saturday.Tara Todras-whitehill / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Around 3,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews demonstrated Saturday outside an Intel plant in Jerusalem to protest its operating on the Jewish Sabbath, which they view as a desecration of the sanctity of the holy city.

Police, who had been expecting the demonstrations, hid inside the chip-making plant earlier and rushed out at the surprised protesters when they arrived, said Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby. There were isolated instances of violence and officers arrested several protesters before dispersing the crowds, he said.

Tension between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up a third of Jerusalem's residents, has always been high. Relations worsened last year after voters elected a secular mayor to replace the ultra-Orthodox incumbent. Religious activists have since increased protests against businesses open on Saturdays, when religious Jews are forbidden to work.

Most work places in Jerusalem close for the Sabbath, from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. Businesses that do open on Saturday's are located away from religious neighborhoods to avoid conflict.

The Intel facility is located alongside many other high-tech companies in Jerusalem's Har Hotzvim industrial zone, which is close to two religious neighborhoods.

The U.S. company has operated in Jerusalem for more than 20 years, but protests began last week when the computer chip manufacturer opened the new plant.

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters chanted "Shabbes! Shabbes!" — the Yiddish word for Sabbath — and yelled at police.

Last week, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Berkat said he was trying to reach an agreement between the ultra-Orthodox community and Intel that might result in non-Jewish employees working Saturdays. The deal has not been finalized.

Religious protesters have also targeted Jerusalem's municipality for operating a parking lot on the Jewish Sabbath, holding near-weekly demonstrations for months.