Threat of Violence Keeps Police Out of Jerusalem Haredi Neighborhood

Officer admits in court that sometimes police do not enter Mea She'arim to arrest suspects for fear of confrontations with residents.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Police are reluctant to enter the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She'arim because of residents' violence, a police spokesman said during a recent court hearing over the remand of a neighborhood resident.

A police official said in court Thursday that the reason the police had not arrested a wanted man for more than a month, despite knowing where in Mea She'arim he was, was that every time they go into the neighborhood police property is damaged and they do not want unnecessary confrontations.

Riot police preparing for possible violence at demonstration in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood in 2009, after the opening of a parking lot on Shabbat.Credit: Archive / Tess Scheflan

Police issued an arrest warrant on April 13 for Shalom Baruch Roset, who is accused of assault, property damage and making threats.

The official said police have "often tried to detain suspects for questioning" who belong to the same group as Roset, with the result that "we were attacked and the station chief sustained a head injury as a result of a stone thrown at him."

He added that efforts to send police patrols into the neighborhood have "failed."

Roset was arrested last week, an hour after arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport, where he was planning to catch a flight to England. Police asked for Roset to be held in custody for six days.

Roset, 54, is considered to be one of the leaders of a radical Neturei Karta faction in Mea She'arim known by some as the Sicarii, after the Jewish zealots who fought the Romans in Jerusalem around the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.

Roset's group has a running dispute with the Gur Hasidim, who they say are trying to push them out of the "Warsaw homes," 150 19th-century homes in the neighborhood that are designated for Jews from Poland.

Roset was arrested over what police said was a leading role in an April 13 fight that has come to be known as the Warsaw Homes Pogrom, in which a group of Hasidim broke into a home, destroyed the kitchen, poured kerosene on a 1-year-old girl and tried to light the home on fire.

Several violent altercations followed the incident.

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