Haredi violence in Jerusalem abating

Mother suspected of starving son to undergo psychiatric evaluation Sunday; 2 hurt in protest.

Barkat press conference 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Barkat press conference 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
After days of some of the worst haredi rioting in Jerusalem in years, a Jerusalem court on Friday placed a woman suspected of abusing her child under house arrest, leading to a dramatic drop in violence over the weekend. The woman, who is alleged to have nearly starved her three-year-old son to death, was released on NIS 400,000 bail by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court as part of a court-prodded accord between the two sides worked out by court president Judge Shlomit Dotan, which will see the suspect undergo a psychiatric evaluation on Sunday. The woman's family and lawyers previously opposed such an examination. The woman, a resident of the city's Mea She'arim neighborhood who is a member of the Toldot Aharon community, is believed to be suffering from Munchausen-syndrome-by-proxy, a psychiatric disorder in which a person deliberately abuses someone else, typically a child, in order to draw attention or sympathy to themselves. News of the mother's arrest had sparked three days of intense rioting in the capital in which hundreds of protesters vandalized public property and pelted police and motorists with stones. Saturday did not pass without violence, however, as four people were hurt on Rehov Bar-Ilan when their cab was pelted with stones by haredim, police said. Two of the passengers were hit in the head by the stones in the attack. The assailants fled the scene. On Friday night, a haredi man was lightly injured by a stone to the head as demonstrators threw stones and smashed traffic lights on the road, police said. A dozen haredi protesters also gathered Saturday afternoon at the entrance to the Carta parking lot opposite the Jaffa Gate, which has been open to motorists on Saturdays for the past four weeks. A haredi demonstrator was detained by police after he lay down at the entrance to the parking lot. The month-long haredi protests against the opening of the parking lot on Saturdays intensified last week following news of the woman's arrest. Dozens of demonstrators were arreseted over the last week, including 50 in the intense rioting that began late Thursday night and continued into the predawn hours Friday before the woman's remand hearing. Eighteen police officers were injured in the rioting, including nine who required hospitalization, Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. After the remand hearing, the woman, who is still barred from seeing her three other children, was placed under the care of a haredi lobbyist, at whose home she spent Shabbat. The lobbyist, Avraham Froelich, and Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism Party, jointly posted the woman's bail. Earlier, Litzman had offered to have the woman remain in his home. The woman, who is five months pregnant, is suspected of severely abusing her child for two years, to a point where he weighed a mere seven kilograms. The alleged child abuser is not cooperating with police investigators. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat complained Friday that the government had not offered any backing to the city during the days of haredi violence. "Not only rabbis should condemn the riots," Barkat told Channel 2. "Government ministers and public figures should speak out." His remarks echoed those of the city's police chief who, in a rare public rebuke, wondered aloud on Thursday why haredi rabbis and government officials were not condemning the violence. Barkat also defended his decision to suspend welfare services in two haredi neighborhoods after municipal offices in the area came under attack, saying his primary concern was the safety of the workers. "We have no intention to impose collective punishments; when quiet is restored we will carry out our duties," he said, rejecting criticism by a human rights group that the move amounted to collective punishment. Municipal workers began clearing the garbage-strewn streets of Mea She'arim on Friday, which had been littered with smoldering trash cans and broken glass. The violent protests against the arrest of the woman as well as the opening of the parking lot were organized by the Eda Haredit, which represents several insular haredi sects. The mayor noted that less than 10 percent of the city's haredim belong to the group. The boy remains in serious condition at Jerusalem's Hadassah-University Hospital at Ein Kerem, although doctors say that he is improving and steadily gaining weight.