Hundreds of haredim riot over limited visitation hours to Yosef’s Jerusalem grave

Six arrested and one reporter injured during Wednesday night’s violent protest.

Memorial rally for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Memorial rally for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A riot Wednesday night involving over 300 haredim, who were protesting limited visitation hours at the grave of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, resulted in six arrests, police said Thursday.
According to police, a coterie of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators began setting trash bins and tires alight at 10 p.m.
to block off Jerusalem’s Bar- Ilan junction in protest of the Sanhedria Cemetery’s evening closing hours, which they said prevented them from praying at the late rabbi’s burial site.
Holding up placards stating, “Let us prostrate before the grave of the Maran” – a title of reverence reserved for great rabbis – one of the protesters demanded that the gravesite be accessible 24 hours a day so Jews could “recite psalms and request mercy for the people of Israel,” Israel National News reported.
Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed that the riot had started because the haredi protesters were dissatisfied with the visiting hours. He said six men had been arrested for throwing rocks at responding officers.
Rosenfeld added that no officers had been hurt during the disturbance.
During the violence, a Special Patrol Unit (Yasam) officer allegedly attacked Yair Sherki, a religious affairs reporter for Army Radio, who was attempting to interview one of the protesters and sustained injuries to his legs.
Asked about the attack, Rosenfeld said Thursday evening that he had no information regarding the incident.
In response to the alleged assault against Sherki, a union representing the country’s religious affairs reporters condemned the confrontation and demanded that police prosecute the officer in question.
“As reporters in the field, we often witness police violence,” the statement read.
“We demand that the Israel Police prosecute the brutal cops. Freedom of the press is a fundamental principle in a democratic country, and it is time the police internalized that.”
It remains unclear which officer or officers allegedly attacked the reporter.
Yosef’s death in October at age 93 led to the largest funeral procession in the country’s history. The capital came to a veritable standstill when at least 800,000 people gathered from across the nation to descend on the cemetery and mourn the rabbi.
Due to the heightened sensitivity surrounding visitation to Yosef’s grave, the cemetery has agreed to extend visiting hours, police said.