Israel Police Issue Far Fewer Fines for Mass Prayers Than for Other COVID Violations

Only 171 tickets were issued for prayer violations nationwide, according to police data, as opposed to 53,514 tickets issued for entering a public area

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Israel police stand as in front of an ultra-Orthodox crowd during the lockdown in Jerusalem, October 5, 2020.
Israel police stand as in front of an ultra-Orthodox crowd during the lockdown in Jerusalem, October 5, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Police have issued far fewer tickets for holding mass prayer services than they have for other violations of the coronavirus rules, as epitomized by the lone ticket issued for mass services in Jerusalem despite numerous documented violations.

Only 171 tickets were issued for prayer violations nationwide, according to police data submitted to the Knesset Interior Committee on Monday. Of these, 91 were issued by the Tel Aviv District, which includes Bnei Brak. In contrast, 53,514 tickets were issued around the country for entering a public area, 1,234 for opening a business in violation of the rules and 899 for refusing to disperse a gathering.

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As during the first lockdown, the northern district issued a substantially higher number of tickets than other districts between September 18 and October 11. Altogether, 14,945 tickets were issued in the north, 13,407 in Jerusalem and 10,550 in the Tel Aviv District. The Shai (West Bank) District issued the fewest tickets – 2,318.

But Tel Aviv led the pack in the number of tickets issued for both being present in a forbidden location (460), apparently because many swam in the sea, and refusing to disperse a gathering (401), mainly due to the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In Jerusalem, 293 tickets were issued for the latter, while in other districts, the number was negligible.

The Interior Committee had convened to discuss police brutality against protesters, and Committee Chairwoman Miki Haimovich (Kahol Lavan) criticized Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen for not coming himself nor sending another top officer. Police were represented at the meeting by a brigadier general.

Haimovich said that given Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s reported urging that officers use an iron fist against demonstrators, as well as the fact that there hasn’t been a permanent commissioner for almost two years, “I wonder whether senior police officers decided of their own accord to show contempt for the Knesset Interior Committee by not coming to the meeting, or whether there was a guiding political hand.”

Police stated that coronavirus rules are enforced both at officers’ initiative and in response to reports from the public, “but it will never be possible to station a police officer around the clock at every street corner, every synagogue or every business. We expect the entire public and community leaders to work to ensure that the regulations are upheld, for the sake of everyone’s health.”

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