Soldier Whose Rifle Was Used in Extremist Wedding Jailed for 21 Days

Wedding groom and two others who appear in video described as 'ugly and serious' by judge released into house arrest.

Yakir Ashbel being led into Jerusalem Magistrate's Court by two guards, December 30, 2015
Olivier Fitoussi

An Israel Defense Forces soldier whose rifle was brandished by religious extremists at a recent wedding was court martialed and sentenced to 21 days in an IDF prison on Friday.

The soldier, 21, serves in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, an ultra-Orthodox unit in the Kfir Brigade. The IDF is also investigating other soldiers who participated in the wedding.

The soldier was convicted on the grounds that a soldier's weapon is required to be in his possession at all times. A video of the wedding shows the soldier's rifle being passed around among the dancers.

The video, which showed Jewish extremists dancing with guns and knives and celebrating the murder of a Palestinian toddler, caused a public outcry when it was broadcast two weeks ago. 

Yakir Ashbel, the groom whose wedding was being celebrated, was one of three people released from detention into house arrest on Thursday. The others were Daniel Pinner, a well-known far-right activist, and an unnamed minor.

The three were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of illegal assembly, weapons violations and incitement. They were given bail by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, but the police delayed their release while it mulled appealing the decision.

Eventually, the police decided not to appeal and released the three on Thursday.

It emerged during Wednesday’s court hearing that a suspect believed to have played a major role in the shocking wedding scenes has yet to be arrested.

Pinner was filmed on someone’s shoulders wearing a shirt from the banned Kach Movement and waving a rifle that he alleged was a toy. His claim was rejected by the judge, based on investigative material.

Ashbel claimed he had been drunk at the wedding and hadn’t been aware of what his guests were doing.

Judge Joya Skappa-Shapiro wrote in her decision, “The actions ascribed to the [accused] are ugly and serious. We’re talking about behavior that arouses revulsion, disgust and even shame that Jews would choose to celebrate the founding of a new Jewish home by expressing happiness at the murder of a baby.

"These are considerations that should be given concrete expression if and when the accused are convicted. But these are not considerations that can be considered in a request to extend a remand.”