Israeli Police Mistakenly Raid Two Jerusalem Homes, 'Traumatizing' Elderly Residents

In a 3 A.M. operation, officers searching for a suspect broke down the doors of two apartments in the ultra-Orthodox Mea She'arim neighborhood. Both times, they had the wrong address

Residents walk in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim of Jerusalem on September 13, 2017.
THOMAS COEX / AFP

Israeli police this week mistakenly raided two apartments in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Mea She'arim neighborhood, damaging doors and frightening elderly residents, their families said.

The police early on Monday broke into two apartments where they believed a fraud suspect named Amram Mintzberg lives. In fact, the homes belonged to families who had the same last name. The police later acknowledged their mistake, but noted that the detectives involved used the addresses on the arrest warrant that was provided by the court.

Around 3 A.M., the police knocked on the door of Miriam Mintzberg, 90, who refused to open it. "Not a minute went by and they removed the door and entered, asking if so-and-so lived there," said her son Moshe Mintzberg. When she told them that there was no one by that name at the address, they excused themselves, saying they had made a mistake.

"My Mom is suffering from trauma, and it’s just a miracle that the incident didn't end in tragedy. Now we are looking for a place for her in a senior citizens' home because of this. Even if it had involved a suspected murderer, you don't break in until you're 100 percent sure," he added.

"No one came to provide an explanation, to apologize. Today I installed a new door that cost me 4,500 shekels ($1,300)," Moshe Mintzberg said, adding that the cost of the new door came out of his mother's retirement benefits.

The police later said that the families whose apartments were raided by mistake will be fully compensated for any damage.

Later that night, the police raided another apartment in Mea She'arim of another Mintzberg household, that of 71-year-old Shlomo Mintzberg, a prominent rabbi in the ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit movement, who was home at the time, as was his 68-year-old wife and a women with special needs for whom the couple helps care.

Mordechai Mintzberg, the couple's son, said that his parents told the police that they would open the door, but apparently the officers did not hear them and broke in. They also kicked in the bathroom door, he said.

The man the police was trying to track, Amram Mintzberg, turned himself in later on Monday, and was questioned over allegations of money laundering and fraud. Police suspect that he had set up a fictitious non-profit organization designed to extract funding from the Education Ministry. He was ordered to be held in detention until Sunday.

The Israel Police issued a statement saying that the Jerusalem District detectives who carried out the raids on the two homes did so in accordance with the addresses on the court's arrest warrants, which only later turned out to be erroneous. The police carry out thousands of operations a year "with accuracy and great success," the statement added. "To the extent that a mistake has been made, the incident will be reviewed to prevent a repetition in the future."