Police arrest one of the leaders of Mea She'arim 'mafia'

Owners of bookstore harassed by Sikrikim extremists fears retaliation; three detained by police in closure of illegal slaughterhouse.

Mea She'arim 311 ML (photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Mea She'arim 311 ML
(photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Jerusalem police arrested on Tuesday morning one of the heads of the extremist Sikrikim group who was responsible for harassing and vandalizing a bookstore in Mea Sha’arim that refused to acquiesce to the group’s modesty and purity demands.
The anti-Zionist group wanted the bookstore, Or Hachaim (Manny’s), located on Mea Sha’arim Street, to remove all English and Zionist books and post a sign outside requiring patrons to dress modestly.
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When the store refused, the group repeatedly broke the store’s display windows, threw tar and fish oil into the store, and even dumped bags of human excrement inside.
The Or Hachaim’s managers had expressed frustration with the police, who they said did nothing to arrest the perpetrators, despite clear security-camera surveillance video identifying the men who were breaking the store’s windows multiple times.
The store windows were most recently smashed on September 14. Since then, the managers have installed steel shutters in front of the store.
“It looks like a fortress,” said Marlene Samuels, one of the store’s managers. “We are happy the police are doing something, that they’re feeling some pressure from the press and articles in the newspapers, but we know there are going to be repercussions for these arrests,” she said on Tuesday.
She added that the store would have a private guard for the next few days in addition to the metal shutters to try to avoid more vandalism as retaliation for the arrests.
In a search of the suspect’s house on Ein Yaakov Street, police found “paskeivellim,” or flyers in the haredi community, defaming the store. Samuels said the Sikrikim, who are only about 60-100 people, but wield large influence over the neighborhood, have made over a hundred paskeivillim against Or Hachaim in the year-and-a-half that the store has been open.
Many of the other stores around Mea Sha’arim have given in to the Sikrikim’s requests, and almost all of the stores in the neighborhood display the sign asking patrons to dress modestly.
Sikrikim representatives also vet the books sold at area bookstores to make sure they comply with the group’s modesty standards. Business owners in the area have compared the group to the mafia, but insist that they’d rather compromise with them than deal with the trouble that Or Hachaim is currently experiencing.
“This needs to be dealt with long term, [the police] must carry on working on it rather than leaving it alone,” said Samuels.
Also on Tuesday morning, police patrols accompanied municipality workers who went to close down an illegal slaughterhouse for the second time in a number of days in the Mea Sha’arim neighborhood on Hamishneyot Street.
The slaughterhouse belongs to Yoelish Krois, the unofficial “operations officer” of the Eda Haredit, the small anti-Zionist extreme haredi group. Krois’s business has been operating for some 10 years without the proper licenses.
Krois was detained for questioning by police on Tuesday morning. There were a few protesters who threw stones at the police and called them “Nazis,” Jerusalem Police Spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby told The Jerusalem Post.
Two youths who called the police “Nazis” were arrested.
However, the lone protesters were nothing like the hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters who threw rocks, steel bars and Molotov cocktails at the municipality officials and police when Krois was arrested for tax evasion in connection with the same slaughterhouse in July.
Five demonstrators were arrested, and six policemen were injured in the July protests.