After Purim COVID Restrictions, Israeli ultra-Orthodox Party Threatens to Stop Cooperation With Police

United Torah Judaism says it will reconsider its position on government coronavirus restrictions, in the wake of an hours-long freeze of bus and train service to Jerusalem meant to curb large Purim gatherings

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Ultra-Orthodox Jews scuffle with police officers in Mea Shearim.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews scuffle with police officers in Mea Shearim. Credit: Oded Balilty,AP
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

The legislators of United Torah Judaism said Wednesday they would not cooperate with the police and would reexamine its cooperation with the government and the coronavirus cabinet, in protest at the suspension of public transportation to and from Jerusalem on Sunday for the Purim holiday.

“The United Torah Judaism Knesset caucus will not cooperate with the Israel Police and asks the heads of the Haredi authorities to take this step as well,” the party said in a statement. “The caucus will consult with the great rabbis on cooperation with the resolutions of the cabinet and of the coronavirus cabinet, which are repeatedly biased against the Haredi public, including fear of the imposition of a lockdown during Passover.”

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The lawmakers called on the police to apologize for suggesting, in a work plan drafted before the Purim holiday, that many celebrants in Jerusalem might drink to excess, potentially causing outbursts of violence in a few of the city’s Haredi neighborhoods.

“The caucus will not cooperate until the police apologize for the false report, which said that thousands of members of the Haredi community drink to the point of intoxication during the reading of the Megillah or the tischim on Shushan Purim in Beit Shemesh,” referring to gatherings of Hasidic men and boys around their rebbe, in this case during the third, additional day of the holiday that is celebrated in Jerusalem and a few other cities in Israel.

Beit Shemesh is a city near Jerusalem with a large number of Haredi neighborhoods.

The coronavirus cabinet authorized the suspension of public transportation to and from Jerusalem through Sunday night, to prevent large gatherings for the holiday. Hundreds of residents of the Haredi settlement of Modi’in Ilit marched to the city on Saturday night in protest, and by Sunday they were joined by several thousand people. Entire families, many carrying suitcases and pushing strollers with young children walked on the shoulders of the highway.

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