Dozens of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators blocked Shabbat Square in heart of Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods on Tuesday in protest in part over plans by the police to have an autopsy performed on a month-old baby boy who drowned at the Mei Ami Hotel in Ashdod on Monday.
On Tuesday, the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court approved a police request that the body of the child, who reportedly drown in a hotel hot tub, be sent for an autopsy, but the court also issued a stay suspending the order to give the baby’s family the opportunity to appeal it. The family objects to an autopsy as a violation of traditional Jewish religious law, halakha.
The child’s parents, who live in the Beit Shemesh area west of Jerusalem, were arrested on Tuesday over the death. The protests broke out in response to their arrest and the court's autopsy ruling.
Sources at the hotel and the Magen David Adom emergency medical service said the baby drowned in a hot tub in his parents’ room. The parents said the child lost consciousness after he ingested water while they were bathing him, a source said.
The hotel owner said on Monday that the family rented three rooms, and the mother chose the room with the hot tub. The owner recounted seeing ambulances and the police suddenly beginning to arrive, including a mobile intensive care unit. “I tried to enter the room. I saw that they tried to resuscitate the baby and after 15 or 20 minutes they took him to the hospital,” he said.
Large numbers of police, including mounted policemen, confronted the Jerusalem protesters. The police said they attempted to direct traffic and restore order in the face of the protest. Several demonstrators were arrested.
Protest leaders called for the protest effort to be expanded to other sites in Jerusalem, as well as to Beit Shemesh.