Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef on Monday condemned ultra-Orthodox rioters who have been violently resisting police efforts to enforce lockdown restrictions, calling them “young delinquents” and “rioters” who are “desecrating God’s name,” and urging the Haredi community to renounce them.
“There is no justification for violent acts and that should stop immediately,” the Sephardic chief rabbi said in a statement, adding that their actions “aren’t in the name of the Torah.”
He called on municipal and welfare authorities to step in and take care of the rioters, “who are after all part of us, and of course are a minority that doesn’t represent us.”
“This minority is tarnishing the name of the entire Haredi public, whose vast majority is very far from such behavior,” Yosef said. He added a call for security forces to show restraint, “because we are brothers.”
Violence in ultra-Orthodox communities continued Monday as residents pushed back against police enforcement of the lockdown.
Rioters in Beit Shemesh clashed with police, with hundreds throwing rocks at officers, according to the force.
Police said three officers were injured and additional forces were called in to deal with the disturbance.
Meanwhile, members of extremist Haredi factions were blocking roads in Jerusalem in protest of works on the light rail, which is set to pass through their neighborhood despite their objections.
ברחוב יחזקאל בירושלים עשרות חרדים קיצוניים משבשים את התנועה במחאה על פרוייקט הרכבת הקלה. שמשת אוטובוס נופצה והתנועה משובשת. מספר אוטובוסים תקועין ברחוב והנוסעים ירדו, המפגינים צועקים "רציתם שרכבת תעבור פה, לא תהיה בכלל תחבורה ציבורית" pic.twitter.com/Ej6XsEU8LK
— Haim Goldich | חיים גולדיטש (@HGoldich) January 25, 2021
A mob shattered bus windshields, shouting: “You wanted a train to pass here — now no public transportation will pass at all.”
Earlier Monday, police officers who were called to Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood, apparently to deal with a domestic violence case, were ambushed by dozens of rioters who greeted them with a shower of rocks and other objects, the Israel Police said.
One officer was injured in his hand and damage was caused to the police vehicle. The Kan public broadcaster reported that Border Police officers were called in to rescue the cops.
ניידת משטרה שהגיעה לרחוב יואל בירושלים בעקבות דיווח על אירוע אלימות במשפחה, נחסמה והותקפה. שוטר נפגע בידו מיידוי אבנים ונזק נגרם לניידת. השוטרים חולצו מהמקום על ידי לוחמי מג"ב@VeredPelman (צילום: מחאות החרדים הקיצוניים) pic.twitter.com/1eulPi6JX8
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) January 25, 2021
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said authorities will deal with the ultra-Orthodox rioters with a “heavy hand.”
As the Knesset gave a non-final approval to a bill doubling fines for lockdown violations, the premier called the rioters an “extremist marginal group” and said they must stop the violence “immediately.”
Critics have accused Netanyahu of avoiding cracking down on the Haredi public in order not to anger his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.
Top ultra-Orthodox officials on Sunday blamed police for the tensions.
On Sunday night, four people were arrested in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak during violent clashes with police that saw two buses attacked and one of them torched. The bus driver, Eyal Tzipori, was lightly injured when the mob beat him.
The driver, 41, described the encounter as “a nightmare, something out of this world.”
“I am injured mentally and physically. I got out of there by the skin of my teeth,” he told Channel 13 news on Monday morning.
There have been multiple reports of flagrant violations of the lockdown in Haredi communities, with schools in particular remaining open even though the lockdown orders included shuttering the entire education system with the exclusion of special education institutes. All nonessential businesses have also been closed.