Four Israelis were arrested in the southern city of Arad on Saturday night after violent clashes broke out between the city’s secular and ultra-Orthodox residents.
Long-simmering tensions between residents who oppose the influx of ultra-Orthodox into the city and the local Haredi community came to a head in riots that saw both sides spitting at each other, clashing with police, and some Haredi demonstrators rolling burning tires at the home of secular residents.
Four demonstrators were arrested in connection with the incident, according to police. Two of the detained were ultra-Orthodox and two were secular, according to Channel 10.
The incident spiraled over a poster featuring the leader of the Hasidic Gur sect that said Arad was “not for sale” and accused the ultra-Orthodox of making the city “dirty.”
On Saturday night, hundreds of secular residents gathered to protest, chanting “Arad will forever remain a secular city. Arad is ours and we will not relinquish it,” according to the Ynet news site. Nearby, ultra-Orthodox protesters assembled outside the home of the activist who put up the sign, setting tires on fire and rolling them toward the house, according to reports.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid tweeted on Saturday night that he was backing the Arad mayor Nissan Ben-Hamo, a representative of his party, and the city’s residents. “The bullying will not win. The police must treat the violence by the extreme Haredim with a heavy hand,” he wrote.
— איציק קליין (@izikla32) September 9, 2017
Meanwhile, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party arrived at the scene and was meeting with police.
The city has been wracked with religious tensions for several years, with many of its longtime residents opposing the growing Haredi presence in the former development town.
In February 2016, an Arad man in his 60s was arrested for placing a pig’s foot at the entrance to an ultra-Orthodox synagogue on several occasions. He told investigators he was angry that the synagogue had been established at the site of a public shelter near his house.
In December 2015, a 70-year-old woman from Arad chased an ultra-Orthodox man down the street with a knife shouting “Go work!” The man was unharmed and the woman was arrested.
In another attempt to block outsiders, in August 2015, Ben Hamo, the mayor, also ordered inspectors and police to patrol entrances to the city, in order to prevent hundreds of African migrants newly released from the Holot detention facility from settling there. Ben Hamo told the interior minister at the time that he “will not allow the infiltrators to arrive in Arad,” using the loaded term employed by the government to describe African refugees and asylum seekers.