Violent Clashes During Israeli Police Raid on Wedding Spark Criticism From ultra-Orthodox Leaders

Video from incident, in violation of COVID lockdown orders, shows arrested man bleeding. Bride's sister says brother assaulted, while police say participants threw glass bottles and suspect injured by fall

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The scene of the incident, Givat Ze’ev, October 14, 2020.
The scene of the incident, Givat Ze’ev, October 14, 2020.

Police raided a wedding held in a private home in on Wednesday evening, with video from the scene showing a violent confrontation with attendees and a man bleeding from the face being arrested.

The police said the officers arrived at the event in Givat Ze’ev, north of Jerusalem, after a neighbor complained, and that while they were writing a ticket for the owner of the house, glass bottles full of oil were thrown at them. A police officer and the man who was arrested slipped on the oil and were injured by the broken glass, the police added. According to video aired by the Kan public broadcaster, the wedding continued after police left the home.

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Under lockdown regulations put into place last month, people are not allowed to visit other people's homes except for specific circumstances, and gatherings can include up to 10 people in an enclosed space and 20 people outdoors.

Police documentation of the incidentCredit: Israel Police

The bride’s sister, Batsheva Pollack, said the family held the wedding with capsules of no more than 20 people each. She said a policewoman entered the house and began to take pictures, at which point her mother tried to stop her and put her hand over the camera lens. “We are 13 siblings and we all started to defend our mother,” said Pollack. “They used force to take my brother and smashed a glass bottle on his face, and then took him,” she added. Pictures of the incident show a man knocking a telephone out of a policewoman’s hand while she was filming the confrontation between the wedding participants and officers.

Police released bodycam footage showing wedding participants trying to prevent police from filming and what appears to be a violent confrontation with one of them. According to police, "The policewoman who documented what was occurring and sought to identify the homeowner was attacked by her, and the police officers were therefore forced to tell her that she was detained and asked her to come with them a number of times. At this point, the rest of the household members began to get upset and disturb the officers." The police said the suspect's injury was caused when he fell after throwing bottles at the officers.

Some ultra-Orthodox lawmakers strongly criticized the police for the incident, including Interior Minister Arye Dery, United Torah Judaism Chairman Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni. Dery called it shocking and said he discussed the incident with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who promised to investigate the matter.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said he would personally look into the incident.

Acting police chief Motti Cohen voiced an implicit criticism of lawmakers speaking out against the police, saying: "Unfortunately, instead of harsh condemnation of those violating the regulations and hurting the police who enforce them, there are those who choose to attack the police and discredit them."

Meanwhile, coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu said that "this type of enforcement will continue. We have no tolerance for mass gatherings and weddings, and such phenomena cannot be repeated."

Gamzu's remarks also provoked anger among ultra-Orthodox parties. Dery said that Gamzu did not respond in a similar way to other gatherings.

Gamzu subsequently announced that his response was given "on the basis of incorrect and partial information" and said that he regretted it. He added that he sought to convey that gatherings could endanger the public, and that action should be taken "with restraint but with determination" to prevent this.

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