Scuffles broke out Tuesday at an anti-government rally in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak as some residents hurled objects at the protesters and cursed them.
The small protest was held near the home of United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, a top coalition leader, as part of ongoing demonstrations against the right-religious coalition’s plans to radically overhaul the judicial system.
The demonstrators waved Israeli flags, held signs and played drums, while some of the counter-protesters had a banner that read, “leftists are traitors.”
“The left has left Judaism,” they chanted.
Eggs, fireworks and other objects were hurled at some of the protesters.
Police said a suspect was arrested for macing an officer, who was treated at the scene.
Video appeared to show an ultra-Orthodox man pepper spraying the policeman, who was dressed in civilian clothes, after scuffling with him.
מה שתראו בבני ברק לא תראו בתל אביב.
יש עמי אשד אחד לבני ברק ועמי אשד אחר לתל אביב. pic.twitter.com/ScgKC9w93J
— אריאל אלחרר (@ariel_elharar_) March 14, 2023
A number of roads in the area were closed as a result of the protest, after which a group of counter-demonstrators blocked nearby Route 4, a major highway.
According to police, the group, which number around 200, threw trash cans and other objects onto the road, before officers cleared them away.
“The meager turnout for the demonstration tonight across from my house proves that the protest organizers have lost the battle,” Gafni wrote on Twitter. “Even their side is repulsed by the incitement and disruption to the lives of millions of Israeli citizens.”
The protest appeared to be the first at the home of a lawmaker from United Torah Judaism or the fellow ultra-Orthodox Shas party. Opponents of the overhaul have been holding demonstrations outside the homes of lawmakers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, including Tuesday night, when several hundred rallied near MK Yuli Edelstein’s house in Herzliya.
The protests have swelled in the 10 weeks as the government has moved forward with legislation to increase political power at the expense of the judiciary, with hundreds of thousands of Israelis taking to the streets on succeeding Saturdays to demonstrate under the banner of protecting Israeli democracy.
The coalition has brushed off ever-multiplying warnings by economists, jurists, diplomats and top former security officials of potentially dire consequences for Israel’s social cohesion, security, world standing and economy.
Proponents of the proposed changes argue they “correct” the balance of power between elected officials and an activist judiciary. Critics and growing mass protest movements decry the move as stripping judicial independence and eroding democracy, leaving almost all power in the hands of the elected political majority.