The family of a bride whose wedding was shut down by police on Wednesday night, resulting in violent, bloody clashes, said Thursday that officers shattered a glass bottle on their son’s head and punched him after he attempted to prevent cops from arresting his mother.
Police and relatives of the bride offered contradicting versions of what happened, with officers saying they were attacked as they dispersed the celebrations at a home in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev, just north of Jerusalem, while the family claimed officers violently stopped what they said was an event that met pandemic regulations limiting gatherings. Police said there were more people present than permitted, that they were alerted by neighbors who feared the spread of coronavirus contagion, and that the first officers on the scene were attacked and had to call for backup.
Family members admitted the mother of the bride had attempted to interfere with police filming of the guests, setting off a confrontation. But they maintained police responded with disproportionate force and assaulted the son without cause. Video footage from the scene showed the bride’s brother being led out of the house with blood streaming down his face.
Police, meanwhile, flatly denied the allegation and said officers were responding to an attack by the young man. They countered that family members threw bottles of oil on the floor, whereupon the young man slipped and cut open his head.
A video published on social media Wednesday showed police scuffling with guests and family amid tables arranged for a celebration as people screamed and cried, with one man punched after being knocked to the floor.
“The police behaved in a horrible way,” Rabbi Ori Pollack, the father of the bride, told Ynet Wednesday night. “We put on face masks, they split my son’s head open. All this as they wanted to arrest my wife, and my children resisted.”
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) October 14, 2020
On Thursday morning, Pollack told Channel 12 that he, his wife, and their 13 children were inside the house, with 20 other members of the bride’s family outside in the yard, while friends of the groom watched the ceremony from across the street.
“Suddenly two policemen showed up, and one female officer pulled out her phone and aggressively started filming, and my wife seems to have signed with her hand not to film or covered the camera, and that is what set the officer off,” he said.
Pollack claimed that reinforcements then arrived and sought to arrest his wife.
“My son did not want [police] to take her, and he stood in front of her. The police grabbed him, choked him, and threw him backward. After he was already handcuffed, police took him to the kitchen and punched him in the face and broke a bottle on his head.”
Pollack said his hand was cut while trying to pull an officer off of his son, and he had to get four stitches.
התנהלות הזויה ומופרעת של שוטרים כעת בשמחה בגבעת זאב. פשוט מקומם! pic.twitter.com/iP9G5Tg7L3
— ישראל כהן (@Israelcohen911) October 14, 2020
“I went to the cop from behind and tried to pull him up, so he would calm down… and suddenly I was cut, possibly from the bottle [the officer] had in his hand.”
Meanwhile a policewoman who was present at the scene to disperse the wedding branded the violence that unfolded as a “pogrom.”
“People threw objects, one of the sons threw a bottle of oil that shattered on the floor and cops slipped on it,” Hadar Kako told Kan news. “All of the brothers attacked. We could have arrested the mother, father and brothers. But we wrapped up the incident with one arrest because we didn’t want to create a provocation.”
Bat-El Pollack, the mother of the bride, told the Maariv daily the event itself was small and that after the ceremony “people started showing up that I don’t even know.”
She lamented the violence and claimed a neighbor must have alerted the police to the event.
“There was a snitch, one of the neighbors snitched, but there were not dozens of people. We are not violent people… They did [violence] to my son, they took a glass bottle and threw it in his face, I saw it and it is on video,” she said.
פצועים! דם! וצרחות!
ככה הורסים לכלה את היום הכי שמח בחייה. ( גבעת זאב / צילום: רפי אוחנה) pic.twitter.com/PJynK7IS0N
— מנחם קולדצקי (@nbjovsr88) October 14, 2020
Pollack’s son Yitzhak told Channel 12 in an interview from the hospital, cuffed to his bed, that he had been defending his mother.
“I saw my mother scared and panicking, not wanting to see her daughter’s wedding ruined, so I came and I stood in front of her and did not want it to end badly. Then the police started to push and use force, and I realized that my mother was going to fall — and then one of the cops punched me and said I was under arrest and knocked me to the floor and kept beating me.”
His lawyer, Itamar Ben Gvir, a far-right activist known for representing Jewish extremists, claimed police’s behavior at the wedding was worse than the way they dispersed “weddings of Hamas in East Jerusalem.”
“Nothing would have happened if the police had waited for the end of the investigation to hand out a fine, or even waited until the end of the wedding to commence an investigation, but the police behaved like a bull in a china shop. The blood of the ultra-Orthodox public is no longer important,” he said Thursday.
Mordechai Pollack, another brother of the bride, told Hebrew-language media that when police arrived there were only 16 people present, they were all wearing masks and the wedding abided by Health Ministry regulations.
He admitted that his mother had taken a video camera away from an officer, but said it was returned before the situation got out of control. Despite family pleas that the incident be resolved calmly, police insisted that the mother be brought down to the station rather than delaying the matter until the following day.
The footage provoked an outcry, especially from ultra-Orthodox politicians, who have already been alleging discrimination in coronavirus restrictions targeting their communities and religious observance, and a heavy-handed approach from police.
On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that he had spoken with Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and the latter promised to conduct a swift and thorough investigation of the incident and make the results public.
However, Acting Police Chief Motti Cohen firmly backed the officers in a statement, saying they had acted professionally.
בשעות האחרונות מופץ ברשת תיעוד חלקי של אירוע שהתרחש הערב בגבעת זאב, בניסיון להטיל דופי בשוטרים שפעלו במקום – מצורף תיעוד ממצלמות הגוף של השוטרים >> pic.twitter.com/YF3hewoC8m
— משטרת ישראל (@IL_police) October 14, 2020
Police later published a video from officers’ body cams that appeared to show police attempting to reason with the family, before one person, apparently the bride’s brother, attacked the officers, starting a brawl.
Police said in a statement said that officers were alerted to the wedding and when they arrived found that there were “dozens” of people present. A policewoman who was recording the proceedings was attacked by the homeowner and when officers then told her she would be detained other members of the household attacked them, including throwing glass bottles and bottles of oil, according to the statement.
One of the officers who was involved in the incident reportedly told his commanders that “it was like a Greek tavern, they threw glass bottles and plates.”
Police also said Yizhak Pollack was injured after slipping on some oil in the kitchen and was cut by broken glass on the floor.
He was released to house arrest Thursday.