Jerusalem Mayor Asks Police to Stop Using 'Skunk Water' in Demonstrations

Moshe Leon's request comes a day after police used the riot control measure to disperse a right-wing demonstration in Jerusalem

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Skunk spray is used during a right-wing demonstration at the entrancre to Jerusalem, Saturday.
Skunk spray is used during a right-wing demonstration at the entrancre to Jerusalem, Saturday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon has asked district police to stop the use of a noxious substance known as "skunk water" against protesters in the city, after it was used to break up a violent right-wing demonstration on Saturday.

Skunk water contains yeast fermented in an oxygen-deprived environment, giving it a foul smell that can stick to clothing for hours, even days. The material is sprayed from water cannons and used, among other things, to disperse ultra-Orthodox demonstrations in West Jerusalem and Palestinian demonstrations in East Jerusalem.

Near midnight on Saturday, Leon phoned Jerusalem District police commander Maj. Gen. Doron Turgeman to demand that use of the material be stopped, after it was sprayed during a demonstration near Chords Bridge to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of hilltop youth Ahuvia Sandak.

Skunk spray is used on protestors during a demonstration at the entrancre to Jerusalem, Saturday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Skunk water was once described as the “most foul thing you have ever smelled. An overpowering mix of rotting meat, old socks that haven’t been washed for weeks – topped off with the pungent waft of an open sewer”

“There is no place for the use of skunk in residential neighborhoods," Leon said, noting that it would be “disproportionate and unacceptable in any other place in Israel except Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon, in June.Credit: Emil Salman

“Even if protesters break the law, there is a way to deal with this without causing severe damage to the residents of the neighborhood and the area," Leon said. Despite frequent cleanups by the city, he said, the smell persists for days.

During May's Operation Guardian of the Walls police used skunk on a daily basis in the Damascus Gate and Sheikh Jarrah areas. The material is frequently used in East Jerusalem neighborhoods as well, and residents have documented water cannons sprayed into homes and courtyards without stone-throwing or other provocation.

East Jerusalem residents have complained for some time that the stink remains for a number of days after the protest and severely impairs their quality of life. Until recently however, neither Leon nor his predecessors intervened.

The Jerusalem District police said in response to the mayor that the use of the water was carried out in accordance with the law, which permits it after other crowd control measures fail.

“Following a violent protest during which lawbreakers blocked the road and the light rail tracks, threw objects and assaulted police, the police were forced to act to disperse them using riot-control means including spray, after the protesters disregarded police warnings for a lengthy period," police stated.

Police added that two officers were injured yesterday when protestors used pepper spray against them. "The conduct of the lawbreakers, who acted violently, should be roundly condemned instead of complaining against the police for doing their job of maintaining law and order for residents of the city,” police said.

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