Police Arrest Over Thirty Worshipers During Clashes in ultra-Orthodox Neighborhoods

Riots take place in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem and Betar Ilit, as police struggle to enforce coronavirus lockdown regulations on ultra-Orthodox towns

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Israeli police officers arrest an ultra-Orthodox man in Jerusalem, October 4, 2020.
Israeli police officers arrest an ultra-Orthodox man in Jerusalem, October 4, 2020. Credit: Emil Salman
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

Israel Police said it arrested thirteen individuals in the ultra-Othodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, as well as another 18 at a Jerusalem neighborhood after riots broke out when officers attempted to disband worshipers participating in prayers in a manner that violated the emergency coronavirus regulations. 

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This is just one instance of violence breaking out between Israeli law enforcement and members of the community, as the coronavirus continues to spread in ultra-Orthodox towns, despite a strict, second, nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

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A Sunday morning police statement annoucing the overnight arrests at the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She'arim said worshipers threw stones at police officers, injuring two and damaging several police and private vehicles. 

Police clash with ultra-Orthodox worshipers in Bnei Brak
Police clash with ultra-Orthodox worshipers in Bnei Brak

According to police, officers came to the Agudat Yisrael synagogue on Dessler Street, acting on reports there had been an illegal gathering. They were met by dancing worshipers, and witnessed hundreds of people were gathered indoors without wearing masks or socially distancing, contravening coronavirus regulations. 

In its statement, police said worshipers did not heed officers’ calls to evacuate the premises, and instead engaged in disorderly conduct.  They spilled out on and blocked several streets, eventually forcing police to retreat.

Officers returned with reinforcements, made arrests and handed out fines.  Police also said that after the worshipers were fined, they "began to resist and disrupted public order.”

The mayor of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Avraham Rubinstein, said that “It is very unfortunate that the police do not learn from past mistakes and carry out enforcement activities without coordinating with municipal officials, using severe violence against worshipers."

Shabbat square, a major junction between the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem

"I demand clear clarifications from the district commander," he added, "the immediate cessation of this serious violence, and at the same time, an in-depth investigation of the behavior of the police at the scene.”

On Sunday evening, clashes also broke out between ultra-Orthodox residents and police officers in Jerusalem and the West Bank ultra-Orthodox settlement of Betar Ilit. Four people were arrested in Jerusalem, and at least one in Betar Ilit.

Several incidents of police violence were recorded and broadcast on social media. In Betar Ilit, a police officer threw a bucket at a young boy and dragged him away in a headlock, after the minor allegedly threw a stone at a patrol car.

Police officer throws bucket, detains minor in Betar Ilit
Police take away an 11-year-old in Betar Ilit

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