Police Block Entry to Mevasseret Zion on Yom Kippur

Journalist travels to outskirts of Mevasseret Zion to photograph empty Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, finds entryways blocked.

Police blocked the entrances to the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion over the Yom Kippur holiday.

On Yom Kippur morning, journalist Rafi Mann went, as he does every year, to the outskirts of Mevasseret Zion to photograph the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway bereft of motorists. When he reached an overpass, he noticed barriers blocking off two entrances to the suburb.

"That was very strange, since these roads serve, among other things, as access to Hadassah University Hospital," he said. "Perhaps the police wanted to protect children out riding bicycles, but the police's action was nonetheless outrageous, because one of the good things about Yom Kippur is the consideration shown for everyone: Things don't happen by coercion, but rather by voluntary action. When they start to put up roadblocks, that's inappropriate."

The barriers the police used belong to the Mevasseret Zion local council, but Mevasseret Mayor Arye Shamam said he hadn't known police were putting them up.

"I was surprised by pictures of what was going on," Shamam said. "I didn't know anything about the closure of the community, nor did I authorize it. This was a decision made by the police, based on its own operational considerations. The authority to close roads belongs to the police alone."

The Jerusalem District Police, however, claimed "the roadblocks were placed in coordination with the local council in order to prevent vehicles from outside the community [from entering] and endangering bicycle riders and pedestrians. There were policemen near the roadblocks who allowed the exit and entry of people who asked to enter or exit."