An Israeli boy rides his bike on an empty motorway during Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Around 2,000 officers from special police units and the Border Police will patrol across Israel this weekend, in particular in mixed Arab-Jewish cities, to prevent violent clashes as Jews commemorate Yom Kippur and Muslims celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Adha.
A spokesperson for the National Operations Branch of the Israel Police said they did not have any specific warnings about planned disturbances, but that they suspect that with the holiest day of the Jewish calendar overlapping this year with the Muslim holiday – a holiday of feasting and celebration – there is ample potential for violent clashes.
In recent days police have held meetings with local Arab leaders and their Jewish counterparts in a number of mixed cities and Arab localities, in an effort to reach understanding and to prevent a repeat of the Yom Kippur riots six years ago in Acre. Those riots were believed to have been sparked after an Arab man drove through a Jewish neighborhood in the city during the Yom Kippur fast.
As the two holidays coincide for the first time in decades, hundreds of Jews and Muslims – including the Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis and a number of Muslim leaders - met at an auditorium in Lod on Wednesday for a discussion about the upcoming holidays. The fears of Jewish-Muslim violence follow violent riots that broke out across the Arab sector in July, after Shuafat teen Muhammed Abu Khadeir was found murdered in a Jerusalem forest. Jewish extremists were later arrested for the murder, described as a racially-motivated “revenge killing”.
Police from the Judea and Samaria district said Thursday that a curfew would go into effect for the West Bank beginning at midnight Thursday. The decision to put Palestinians areas on curfew was made by the Defense Ministry, police said.
In terms of security in Jerusalem, police said hundreds of extra Border Police, undercover and patrol officers will be on hand, with a special emphasis on mixed Arab and Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and the Old City.
“There will be an increased police presence in East Jerusalem, Damascus Gate and Jaffa Gate, where thousands of people will be making their way for Yom Kippur,” said Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
“Police units will respond if necessary to any incidents, with other backup units on standby,” he added.
Asked about enhanced security provisions for the Temple Mount, a known flashpoint for Arab violence, Rosenfeld said that for the time being no age restrictions will be imposed to limit Muslims under the age of 50. However, he noted that that may change depending on intelligence police received about possible violence or rioting.
“If necessary, we’ll adjust security assessments throughout Yom Kippur to ensure the safety of all visitors,” he said.