Rivers of frustration and enmity flowed into a narrow street in Arad Saturday night. For more than two years, secular and ultra-Orthodox residents have waged an emotional battle for control of the city. Saturday, for the first time, it spilled over into violence.
Eight people were arrested, including three Haredi demonstrators suspected of rolling burning tires at a home, and the other five of attacking police officers, nudity and disturbing the peace. During the confrontation, secular demonstrators shouted, “Arad is ours.” […]
The battle between Arad’s secular and ultra-Orthodox residents heated up during the last municipal elections two years ago. Until then, Gur representatives were part of the city’s governing coalition under Mayor Tali Ploskov. But many secular residents felt Ploskov’s government gave the ultra-Orthodox excessive benefits. Thus when Ploskov left to become a Kulanu party Knesset member, Ben-Hamo campaigned to succeed her on a pledge that the ultra-Orthodox wouldn’t get more municipal funding than they deserved. […]
Like many residents, [Merav Leiba] fears for the city’s character. She says she has never been this afraid before, even though Arad has absorbed many diverse groups in recent decades, including Ethiopian immigrants, immigrants from the former Soviet Union and thousands of African asylum seekers.
“All these groups came and integrated into society … except the Gur Hasidim – or more accurately, the Gur Hasidic cult – which wants to change it,” she said.