Violent haredi (ultra-Orthodox) protests took place in several parts of the country on Sunday as police sought to enforce COVID-19 lockdown regulations. The haredi community is opposed to efforts to shut down educational institutions and synagogues.
Dozens of riot police were deployed to the center of Bnei Brak as well as some haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem, where they encountered intense resistance from extremists. Police arrested at least 19 rioters.
In Bnei Brak, hundreds of haredim protested against the police closure Sunday morning of the Grodna Yeshiva in Ashdod for violating the lockdown.
The protesters in Bnei Brak blocked roads, attacked police officers and members of the press and burned rubbish bins.
In one incident, a police officer fired a warning shot in the air after he and another officer felt their lives were in danger, the police said.
A 30-second video showed a crowd of haredi protesters surrounding two policemen and harassing, shouting and jostling them. It did not show anyone throwing stones, as the police claimed.
What’s happening in the Haredi sector is out of hand. And Netanyahu won’t crack down on them. Instead he’s shutting down Ben Gurion airport. https://t.co/j32q9Gcq8q— Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) January 24, 2021
The protesters appeared to be young yeshiva students and some children.
The police said one of the officers was taken to a hospital after being hit in the head by a stone thrown by a rioter, and another officer felt someone poke him in the back with a blunt object, leading him to fire the warning shot.
On Sunday evening, haredi protesters vandalized the "Shivtei Yisrael" light rail station in Jerusalem and smashed windows of train cars there in protest of the coronavirus lockdown regulations.
A bus is torched by haredi protesters in Bnei Brak, January 24, 2021 (Credit: MDA)
Windows smashed and tar poured on a light rail carriage in Jerusalem during protests by the ultra-Orthdox community, over the expansion of the light rail tracks. (Channel 12) pic.twitter.com/VKoM0CKDqw— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) January 24, 2021
Among other things, the train carriages and the station were painted and an obstacle was placed on the light rail to block traffic.
Two weeks ago in Beit Shemesh, a police volunteer fired a warning shot in the air when confronted by dozens of haredim during COVID-19 enforcement activity.
In another incident in Bnei Brak on Sunday, a Channel 13 reporter walking down one of the city’s main thoroughfares was jostled and hounded by a mob of protesters as he was reporting.Later in Bnei Brak, rioters attacked a bus, smashing the windshield, lightly injuring the driver and then torching the bus. Buildings near the bus were evacuated due to concerns that the bus could explode and a nearby power line was damaged.
Many of the Bnei Brak protesters were from the radical Jerusalem Faction, which is connected to the Grodna Yeshiva, originally an offshoot of Bnei Brak’s Ponevezh Yeshiva.
Later in the afternoon, four rioters who attacked police officers in Bnei Brak on Thursday night turned themselves in after the police had identified them in an investigation into the incident.
In the evening, hundreds of haredi residents of Beit Shemesh attended a wedding in the city, leading police to intervene and disperse the guests. Rioters threw various objects at the police and burned rubbish bins.
In the incident at the Grodna Yeshiva in Ashdod, police officers blocked the entrances to the yeshiva and battled with protesters trying to get in, including those who damaged a fence erected around the complex and those trying to impede police activity.
The police were accused of using excessive force in some instances, including an incident in which a video posted to Twitter by Kan News shows a police officer at the Grodna yeshiva lifting a child at the protest and throwing him down and then picking him up and throwing him again.
After the incident, hundreds of the rioters tried to block main roads until they were dispersed by the police. Fifteen rioters were arrested, and 13 police officers were injured during the incident, the police said.
Hundreds of protestors gathered in Jerusalem's Mea She’arim neighborhood in the morning as police attempted to shut down a synagogue belonging to the Satmar Hassidim that was operating in violation of coronavirus regulations.
Worshipers tried to barricade themselves inside the central prayer hall. When police managed to enter, they were assaulted, and a bench was thrown at them.
Outside, officers were pelted with various objects, police patrol vehicles were damaged, and rubbish bins were burned as hundreds of haredim protested. Police arrested at least five rioters.
The Eda Haredit communal association has called for mass demonstrations on Wednesday night against coronavirus enforcement by the police and government.
Eve Young contributed to this report.