An IDF officer involved in military operations inside the Gaza Strip was attacked by haredi extremists on Monday while on temporary leave in Beit Shemesh.
The officer, a resident of Netivot, was visiting his children, who have been staying with their grandparents, according to a spokesperson for the Jerusalem District police. He drove while in uniform to a synagogue in the Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet neighborhood to pray, unaware that it was used by members of an extremist haredi group. While he was praying, several extremists smashed the windows of his car and verbally abused him as he left.
Police announced on Tuesday evening the arrest of one suspect, age 22, and added that other arrests were expected.
Haredi politicians were quick to condemn the attack.
MK Arye Deri, chairman of Shas, called it “an act of terrorism” and said the attackers should be dealt with like terrorists.
“The hand that is raised against a soldier must be cut off,” Deri said.
MK Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) called the incident “extremely serious.” He called on the police to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“This is a communal crime and a terrible injustice that will besmirch an entire community. The police must treat such wild people with severity,” he said on Kol Barama radio.
UTJ MK Moshe Gafni described the attack as an incident of the most extreme severity, saying it was also a desecration of God’s name that endangered the haredi community.
Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman, a rabbi and Beit Shemesh resident, welcomed the condemnations but said that fierce attacks from the haredi world on the newly passed law for haredi conscription had contributed to an atmosphere of hate toward the IDF.
“While I applaud the condemnation of the attack from haredi leaders and I know that only small numbers of extremists would ever attack soldiers, I don’t think the haredi political and rabbinic leaders can claim complete innocence,” Lipman said.
“Their non-stop incitement against the government and the suggestion that haredim should serve in the army plays a role here,” he continued.
“Had the haredi community called 500,000 people to a prayer rally on behalf of the soldiers instead of against the draft law, which implies [they are] against army service, I believe the picture would be very different even among the extremists.”
Lipman also called on Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbol to install closed-circuit TV cameras in neighborhoods with extremist elements, saying that funding had been in place for such cameras for years. He claimed they would deter such attacks and allow police catch perpetrators.