Authorities are preparing for possible riots or altercations in Haifa Saturday, as the holiest day of Jewish year, Yom Kippur, coincides for the first time since the founding of the State of Israel with the Eastern Orthodox Feast of the Cross.
Representatives of the Christian community recently met with Haifa police to coordinate activities and security for the holiday, and Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav convened with Archbiship Elias Chacour to discuss the issue, Maariv reported on Monday.
The city has several Jewish and Christian neighborhoods that abut each other. While Jews mark Yom Kippur with fasting and prayers and even the nonreligious refrain from driving, the Feast of the Cross is traditionally celebrated with parades, carnivals and fireworks, which may ignite tensions.
Authorities said they were concerned that religious Jews would be offended by the Christian festivities. “The big fear is that religious Jews will interpret the joy of Christian Arabs celebrating in the wrong way, and a riot will begin,” a police representative told the Maariv newspaper.
In 2008, rioting broke out in Acre on Yom Kippur after Jewish youths threw stones at an Arab motorist who was driving in a Jewish neighborhood after the holiday began. The resulting riots lasted for 24 hours and required hundreds of police officers.
The Feast of the Cross celebrates the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the year 335 and is celebrated every September 13 by the Eastern Orthodox. Yom Kippur, which Jews mark as the Day of Atonement, will begin at sundown on September 13, and end at nightfall the next day.