Police open criminal investigation into wedding attended by thousands

Police initially fined organizers of the wedding the grand rabbi's grandson, but subsequently opened a full criminal investigation due to ‘blatant violation of regulations.'

Wedding of grandson of the grand rabbi of the Belz hassidic community (Credit: Protest Group of Ultra-Orthodox Extremists)
The police and the State Attorney’s Office have opened a criminal investigation into the Belz Hassidim after Wednesday night’s wedding of a grandson of the Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach. It was attended by thousands of people in contravention of guidelines the police had stipulated.
Criticism was voiced from several quarters against the wedding. Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion accused such critics of hypocrisy, saying mass demonstrations outside the Prime Minister’s Residence have not been met with similar condemnation.
Although the police had allowed the wedding to take place outdoors, it was supposed to have been conducted according to the capsule system. But a video from the wedding posted on social media showed this did not happen.
Cordons were set up in the courtyard of the Belz Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, but they failed to create adequate social distancing among the wedding guests at all.
In addition, photos obtained by Channel 12 News showed that after the wedding ceremony, a large indoor celebration also took place without all participants wearing masks or adhering to social-distancing guidelines.
“The police view very severely such a blatant violation of the regulations in a manner that endangers the health of the public and will continue to enforce the regulations for the sake of public safety and health,” the police said in a press release on Thursday.
Most haredi (ultra-Orthodox) leaders and communities have adopted the recommended coronavirus regulations. The Belzer Rebbe has allowed regular prayer services to take place at the Belz center in the Kiryat Belz neighborhood of Jerusalem throughout much of the coronavirus crisis.
The neighborhood has suffered from a high rate of infection.
On Wednesday night, thousands of hassidim gathered for the wedding, which was held outdoors in a large open-air structure next to the Belz Great Synagogue. The police said they had held meetings with the organizers “to prevent a violation of the [coronavirus] regulations,” but since the agreement and regulations were violated, four fines were issued that evening against the organizers, amounting to NIS 20,000.
A police investigation was launched due to licensing violations.
Thursday’s announcement of a full criminal investigation may be related to the evidence of a mass indoor celebration.
“Regulations must be enforced,” but in a fair manner, Lion told KAN Radio on Thursday.
“Every Thursday and Shabbat there are severe violations,” he said regarding the protests staged outside the Prime Minister’s Residence. “Is the entire Balfour Street area totally free from corona?”
“When it comes to a haredi area, then immediately there are headlines and footage,” Lion said. “I don’t support [the violations], but let us not have selective enforcement.”
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch condemned the wedding, calling it a “health terrorist attack.”
“We are doing everything to prevent the gathering of people and paying a tough price (societally and economically) to stop the virus, and then we see pictures from the square [where the wedding was held] yesterday – a mega health terror attack,” he tweeted.
Kisch also has called anti-government protests in Tel Aviv “health terror attacks.”