An ultra-Orthodox Jew gestures during a protest in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel’s political and military establishment expressed shock and dismay on Friday hours after an IDF officer was accosted and lightly beaten by a mob of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem.
The officer, who serves in an infantry brigade, was wearing an army uniform and a knitted skullcap that is the hallmark of the religious Zionist community.
He had entered the neighborhood to pay a visit to two soldiers said to be in dire financial straits.
“In recent years, the IDF has enlisted into its ranks thousands of ultra-Orthodox, assigning them significant tasks and roles throughout the army and its various units,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.
“The IDF views this incident with gravity,” the statement read. “The army denounces and condemns any attempt to harm its officers and soldiers who work day and night to protect the country and its citizens.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Friday with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich about the incident. The premier released a statement to the press saying that he was closely monitoring the police efforts to locate the assailants.
“This is an outrageous incident,” Netanyahu said. “These lawbreakers who raised a hand against an IDF officer must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
“IDF service is a source of pride,” the prime minister said. The IDF is a people’s army that protects us all. The soldiers serving in it represent a number of communities that make up Israeli society. That is how it has always been, and that is how it will be.”
“A line has been crossed,” tweeted Aryeh Deri, the chairman of the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Shas movement. “The assault of an IDF officer at the hands of Jewish extremists is an act of terrorism.”
“A grave act was committed, and I demand that the police do all in its power to bring those criminals to trial as soon as possible,” Deri tweeted.
Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of Knesset, also released a statement condemning the attack.
“This attack was perpetrated by a tiny group of extremist ultra-Orthodox Jews,” he said. “This is a violation of a major red line.”
“I am pained by the fact that on the week in which we remember our sons who are the reason that Israeli citizens can live in security, such violence and polarizing hatred erupts,” he said. “I call on the ultra-Orthodox community to adamantly condemn this incident and to immediately denounce the extremists in its midst who show contempt for all of Israeli society, particularly the ultra-Orthodox.”
An official with United Torah Judaism, the political faction that represents an amalgamation of Ashkenazi haredim, said that those responsible for the attack constitute “an extremist, fringe group that is even more violent towards the ultra-Orthodox than it is to the greater public.”
“These are the same hooligans who attacked UTJ MK Moshe Gafni and MK Uri Maklev when they came into Mea Shearim to pray at a local synagogue,” the source said. “The Israel Police have been way too lenient with them, and it is in contact with their leadership.”
“What we saw today was the result of the police’s silence and capitulation to this group,” the official said.