Several police officers claimed to have allowed a mass wedding to take place in contravention of coronavirus regulations have been suspended from their posts by the incoming police commissioner, Kobi Shabtai, until the incident is investigated.
Hundreds of people attended the celebration on Tuesday night in the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Betar Ilit. The group of officers who arrived at the scene reportedly left after receiving a blessing from the admor, the leader of the Toldos Avrohom Yitzhok Hasidic sect, who was marrying his grandson.
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The West Bank district commander of the Israel Police, Maj. Gen. Moshe Barket, said that he took a grave view of the officers’ conduct.
Several police officers impounded sound equipment at the end of the event, with some Hasidic sources alleging that law enforcement had been told in advance about the wedding, and had committed not to enter the site before 11 P.M.
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“In the early evening hours, a large contingent of police came, but they stayed on adjacent streets and didn’t approach the complex where the wedding was taking place,” a source said, adding that the advance plans with the police also took into account that the holding of the wedding might leak to the press. “The agreement was that if the event became public, the police would only come as a formality, enter and maybe even issue fines, but they wouldn’t disperse those in attendance,” he said.
Speaking to Haaretz, however, another member of the Hasidic community disputed that arrangements had been coordinated in advance with the police.
“That never happened,” he said. “The police came and threatened to send a force inside. We allowed them to come in and speak to the admor, and after that, they came back and impounded the equipment.”
In video footage of the wedding, a police officer is seen shaking hands with the admor and bowing his head to receive the rabbi’s blessing. A large number of people could be seen nearby not wearing masks.
The police who arrived at the end of the celebration and confiscated sound equipment were wearing body cameras, a Hasidic community source said, but the police who were on the scene earlier and received the admor’s blessing did not have theirs running.
The community had planned to hold a mass Shabbat Hatan celebration in Betar Ililt, an aufruf, as it is known in Yiddish, in honor of the groom. Following criticism of the police, they are considering moving the celebrations to Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood instead.
The Toldos Avrohom Yitzhok sect is considered among the most extreme in the ultra-Orthodox community and its leaders generally do not cooperate with government authorities.
On Tuesday, it was reported that the Justice Ministry’s police misconduct unit was investigating several Jerusalem police officers on suspicion that they arrived at secret agreements with Hasidic communities, including Toldos Avrohom Yitzhok, consenting to gatherings of thousands of people over last fall’s Sukkot holiday on the condition that the events not be photographed.