7 arrested as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox riot in Jerusalem

7 arrested as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox riot in Jerusalem

Some rioters said to seek out Arab vehicles to attack; most of those involved reportedly from sect led by convicted sex offender rabbi Eliezer Berland

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Seven people were arrested overnight Wednesday as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters clashed with police in the streets of Jerusalem during celebrations for a religious festival.

Police said they applied riot dispersal means to clear away crowds of people, some of whom were drunk, and who blocked Route 1 in the capital at the junction of Shivtei Yisrael Street and Hayim Barlev Boulevard.

Those arrested were suspected of damaging police patrol vehicles.

The clashes apparently came during celebrations for Simhat Beit Hasho’evah, which is marked during the week-long Sukkot festival that began on Sunday evening. The events are marked with music, dancing, and, often, the consumption of alcohol.

Revelers had apparently spilled out on the streets, disrupting traffic. Some also tried to find passing Arab vehicles with the intention of pelting them with rocks, Channel 13 television news reported.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland shrouds himself with his talit (prayer shawl) at the Magistrates Court in Jerusalem, as he is put on trial for sexual assault charges, November 17, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

During the violence protesters reportedly threw glass bottles at police and sprayed officers with pepper spray.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, most of the rioters were members of the Shuvu Bonim sect which is led by convicted sex offender rabbi Eliezer Berland and has been disavowed by much of the broader Hasidic Bratslav dynasty.

Police said in the statement that for the duration of the Sukkot festival the force will act “to ensure that all events taking place in Jerusalem go ahead as organized and to enable tens of thousands of residents and city visitors to observe the holiday customs.”

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