Hundreds attend hassidic wedding in city with highest rate of infections

Police dispersed hundreds of guests at an ultra-Orthodox wedding celebration in the city of Beitar Illit late Tuesday night.

A police officer is seen surrounded by mostly-maskless hassidic men at a massive wedding in Beitar Illit that violated coronavirus lockdown restrictions. (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
A police officer is seen surrounded by mostly-maskless hassidic men at a massive wedding in Beitar Illit that violated coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
A police officer was suspended on Wednesday pending the investigation into an incident in which he received a blessing from the Toldot Avraham Yitzhak grand rabbi instead of promptly breaking up a large wedding.
Video footage has emerged of a massive ultra-Orthodox wedding on Tuesday night in Betar Illit, the city with the highest rate of positive COVID-19 tests in the country, and the second-highest rate of new infections per 10,000 inhabitants.
The wedding celebration was staged by the grand rabbi of the radical Toldot Avraham Yitzhak hassidic community for his grandson, a part of the anti-Zionist Eda Haredit communal association.
Footage of the wedding celebration obtained by the Kikar HaShabbat news site showed hundreds of hassidim, almost entirely without masks, in an event hall singing and swaying shoulder to shoulder.
Other video footage disseminated on social media showed police personnel waiting outside the building where the wedding was staged, although the police did eventually enter and break up the event.
Further videos did, however, show the police in the process of confiscating audio equipment from the event, while ultra-Orthodox protesters shouted various curses, including “Nazis,” at the police personnel.
The police said that when they arrived the doors of the building were locked and those inside refused to open them.
Only after dialogue with organizers were the doors opened, the police said in an initial statement to the press.
Upon entering, the police said, they saw hundreds of wedding guests who were not wearing masks.
While the police were dispersing the wedding participants, dozens of them gathered outside the building and fought with the police, threw stones at them and damaged police vehicles, the police statement said.
Additional police forces were summoned to the site to fully disperse all wedding participants and others who had gathered at the site.
The organizers of the wedding, as well as the building owners, were summoned for a police investigation.
Following the initial reports of the incident, however, a picture emerged of the police officer from the local police station bowing his head and receiving a blessing from the Toldot Avraham Yitzhak grand rabbi.
The police subsequently released a statement saying that the district police commander had ordered the regional police commander to conduct an investigation into this conduct.
But in a further police statement, it was announced that interim police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai had instructed that the police officer involved be suspended until the investigation is completed.
As of Wednesday, Betar Illit had the highest rate of positive tests, at 26%, and the fourth-highest rate of new COVID-19 infections in the country, with 145.5 per 10,000 residents.