Haredi man arrested in Mea Shearim 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Violent demonstrations took hold of the capital’s Mea She’arim neighborhood on
Sunday afternoon, following the arrest of six haredi men earlier in the
The men were arrested on suspicion of embezzling charitable funds,
money laundering, tax evasion and other tax offenses.
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Eda Haredit organization called for a protest outside its headquarters in Mea
She’arim. Several hundred men gathered to listen to a number of fiery speeches
by senior figures of Eda Haredit.
Demonstrators – mostly members of the
old Yerushalmi community as well as members of the Toldot Aharon hassidic sect –
then streamed towards Shabbat Square at the heart of the neighborhood,
successfully halting traffic on the busy thoroughfare.
Three men were
arrested during the afternoon disturbances, ostensibly for impeding traffic,
with dozens of ultra-Orthodox men chasing after police officers, throwing stones
at them and calling them “Nazis.” A cameraman was lightly injured in the
Media personnel were repeatedly harassed by protesters and several
garbage dumpsters were set ablaze.
Riot police arrived and the flow of
traffic resumed. Tensions remained high.
“They are trying to uproot
Judaism and the Jewish people,” one man declared.
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“We’ve been here for
200 years and we got on just fine – what do we need the state for?” he demanded,
referring to the settlement in Jerusalem and the wider region in the 18th and
19th centuries of a significant number of Jews from Lithuania, disciples of the
Vilna Gaon, along with other European Jews.
“It’s like we’re in Communist
Russia,” another bystander said. “They stage inflammatory events like the
supposed spitting incident in Beit Shemesh [against an eight-year-old girl] and
then come to arrest us.”
Among those arrested was Rabbi Amram Shapira,
the top aide to the head of Eda Haredit, Rabbi Yitzhak Tuviah Weiss. Shapira was
released Sunday night. The judge said there was not one shred of evidence
against him regarding financial crimes. Also arrested was Rabbi Shmuel
Yerushalmi- Lovtzki, the director of the National Committee to Save Needy
Families, the main charity involved in the current police investigation. His
remand was extended until Thursday.
The Eda called for the protests in
response to the arrests, which were seen as a severe insult to Weiss, who also
serves as president of the National Committee to Save Needy
Weiss said the arrests were designed to injure him, and that if the police wanted, it should come and arrest
Nachman, a bystander who claimed to be a nephew of Shapira, said
the ultra-Orthodox community just wanted to be left in peace.
want to interfere with the seculars and we don’t want them to interfere with us
in our neighborhoods,” he said.
Several dozen men restarted a small
protest on Shivtei Israel Street later in the evening.
broke out in Beit Shemesh, where approximately 200 protesters blocked Nahar
Hayarden Street and threw stones. Police arrested four men.Melanie
Lidman contributed to this report.
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