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5 Haredim indicted for breaking into Jerusalem light rail construction site

Prosecutors say accused sat in holes dug by builders and refused to leave despite police calls, while three of the accused defied legal orders to stay away from zone

Ultra-Orthodox protesters demonstrate against the construction work for the Jerusalem Light Rail, in Jerusalem, July 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox protesters demonstrate against the construction work for the Jerusalem Light Rail, in Jerusalem, July 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Five ultra-Orthodox extremists were indicted on Sunday for trespassing and rioting at a Jerusalem light rail construction site earlier this month against a new planned route for the train.

Elazar Glick, 25; Yitzhak Ze’ev Koifman, 33; Avraham Zvi Lederman, 25; Shimon Shapira, 22 and Bezalel Lederman, 20, residents of Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, were indicted for “crimes of rioting, trespassing to commit a crime, obstructing a police officer while performing his duty, violating a legal order and prohibited assembly,” prosecutors said in a statement.

Prosecutors requested that the court hold the five men in custody until the end of legal proceedings.

In two separate incidents that took place a week ago, prosecutors allege that the accused broke into the light rail construction site on Bar Ilan Street in Jerusalem, which sits in the center of several ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, sat inside holes dug up as part of the construction work, and refused to move.

After a short while, the protesters were removed and arrested after refusing calls by the police to leave on their own. Prosecutors said that three of those indicted on Sunday had also violated orders to stay away from the site following earlier arrests.

Haredi extremists have been staging protests for months against efforts to expand the light rail in the capital, but they have intensified in recent weeks and have turned violent in many cases. An extremist minority in the ultra-Orthodox community opposes the light rail running through their neighborhoods, believing it will bring with it unwanted intrusions from the outside world.

Videos of riots from earlier in July showed Haredi extremists disrupting the work by sitting down in holes dug up as part of the construction work and refusing to move, with some seen praying.

Other videos show rioters throwing rocks at construction workers, climbing and burning down tractors and other heavy machinery, and damaging infrastructure.

In one recent incident, participants attacked an Arab worker with an axe and a second employee had his leg broken and was shot by an air rifle, Channel 12 news reported.

At the same time, Haredi media outlets have reported violent incidents directed by Arab workers toward Haredi protesters. According to a report on Thursday by the Haredi news outlet Kikar Hashabbat, a Haredi man was threatened and physically assaulted by two Arab security guards at the Bar Ilan Junction.

Construction work on Bar Ilan Street in Jerusalem was originally scheduled to last two years, but is expected to be delayed by up to a year due to the ongoing disruptions.

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