Israeli Police Filmed Violently Arresting ultra-Orthodox Youth With Special Needs

Confrontation developed after police started dismantling piles of wood to be used for Lag Ba’omer bonfires

Israeli Border Police officers were filmed on Wednesday violently detaining an ultra-Orthodox young man with special needs, who was crying for help and bleeding from the nose.

The police were in the course of dismantling bundles of wood that had been set up for bonfires on the eve of the Lag Ba’omer holiday in Jerusalem’s Mekor Baruch neighborhood.

The video also shows a policewoman in civilian clothes claiming the 22-year-old had touched her. Witnesses to the incident said he was one of a group of youths from a special education institution in the neighborhood who had planned to light a bonfire that evening.

The young man was released without being questioned.

Some witnesses said a confrontation developed between the youths and the policewoman, who said the young man had pushed her.

“They used violence against him like he was the head of a crime organization,” said one man who witnessed the incident, adding that the young man was detained at the site until a staff member from the institution, came and took him away.

The police said in response that while working to dismantle bonfires “that could endanger life in Mekor Baruch, the police encountered violence by dozens of rioters, who threw stones and objects at the police and attacked them.”

Their preliminary investigation of the event showed that a young man attacked the policewoman: “The suspect resisted arrest, behaved wildly and was injured in the face. Immediately after his arrest and after finding out about his handicap the police officer in the field decided to release him immediately and he was treated by Magen David Adom at the site. However, the circumstances are being looked into and will be thoroughly investigated.”

Jerusalem municipality dismantles bonfire preparations, May 22, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

The director of Seeach Sod, the institution where the young man studies, said he regrets the “serious, unnecessary incident.” He said the staff was working with his family and legal assistance to ensure his rights. “We will talk with the police and do everything to make sure such incidents do not recur,” he said.

Meretz lawmaker Ilan Gilon urged the police commissioner to investigate the incident. “The clip is troubling and the pictures are shocking, raising a heavy suspicion that the police used unreasonable force, totally ignoring the citizen’s disability,” he said.

Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg also asked the police commissioner to act on the issue. Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush said “the heart weeps when you think of that special boy and what he’s gone through. I demand of the police commissioner and interior minister to throw the book at those responsible for this crime and suspend them from the police immediately.”

The Jerusalem municipality took apart dozens of wooden budles set up for bonfires in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods close to the Jerusalem Forest on Wednesday to prevent fires that could have spread due to the weather conditions. In the morning a municipal truck with a crane collected the wood piles near the forest in Har Nof and Ramot. In some places children burst into tears and adults resisted the workers’ activity. Some residents blocked the trucks’ way with cars or scattered the wood around to make it harder for the municipal workers to collect it.