Clashes broke out between protesters, police and residents of the central village where National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir was spending Shabbat on Saturday.
Police said they arrested a man who threw rocks at the demonstrators, and two protesters were detained on suspicion of disturbing public order and refusing to obey a police officer’s instructions.
The group of demonstrators arrived in Kfar Uriah near Beit Shemesh when they heard the far-right minister was spending the weekend there.
Residents were angered by their presence, with some shouting “stinking leftists should die,” according to a reporter from the Haaretz daily. One resident reportedly removed his pants and exposed himself to the protesters.
According to the Ynet news site, smoke grenades, rocks and firecrackers were thrown toward the protesters, and some were sprayed with a fire extinguisher.
The Walla news site said that some residents of the village came out to support the protesters. Others were said to be angered by the noise and disruption outside the synagogue where Ben Gvir was praying.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
“Protest against me as much as you want, I’ll fight for your right to demonstrate. But why get near the synagogue windows with megaphones,” Ben Gvir tweeted Saturday evening after Shabbat ended. “I’m sure if it was a mosque you would respect the customs of the inhabitants. But toward religious Jews, it turns out everything is permitted.”
עימותים פרצו הבוקר בכפר אוריה בין מפגינים לבין תושבי הכפר בו נופש השר איתמר בן גביר. נפץ נזרק לעבר המפגינים, המשטרה עיכבה את אחד מתושבי המקום. המפגינים קראו לשר: "איפה היית כשדריה נרצחה?"@OferHalfonKan pic.twitter.com/Itbct01dPq
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 18, 2023
“This was abnormal violence in Kfar Uriah,” a demonstrator told Ynet.
“They brought a truck to block it so that the demonstrators could not see Ben Gvir leaving the synagogue,” she said.
Video circulating on social media appeared to show at least one police officer deploying a baton against demonstrators as law enforcement began to clear the area by force.
Police said in a statement that Border Police officers were deployed to the scene for “a protest that turned into a disturbance.”
המשטרה מתחילה להשתמש בכח נגד המפגינים, כולל שימוש חריג באלות מצד שוטר מג"ב. אלות? הלו, להירגע. דחיפות ועימותים pic.twitter.com/fqnRiun2xV
— Josh Breiner (@JoshBreiner) March 18, 2023
The protesters carried signs declaring Ben Gvir, who has multiple past convictions for supporting a Jewish terror group and for incitement to racism, to be a “criminal police minister.”
One focus of the demonstrators’ chants was the Friday murder of a woman in Haifa. The husband of Darya Leitel, a mother of three, told police that he had killed her.
“Where were you when Darya was murdered?” the demonstrators shouted toward the synagogue.
Leital — the fifth female homicide victim in Israel since the start of the year — had previously complained of threats from her husband, for which he was currently being tried.
Ben Gvir headed up the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday when it decided to delay by six months all discussions on a bill advanced by the previous coalition that would introduce electronic tracking of domestic violence offenders.
Ben Gvir’s office reportedly said a government-backed version of the bill was being prepared instead — a version that appeared set to include an increased emphasis on protecting men’s rights.
According to figures released in November by the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry, domestic violence in Israel is on the rise.
Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit party’s platform included pledges to increase personal security.
However, in addition to the violence toward women, the Arab community is also seeing rising murders. According to the anti-violence campaign group the Abraham Initiatives, 31 people in the Arab community have been killed in the past two and half months.
But Ben Gvir said Wednesday he was canceling an anti-crime drive in several Arab towns because the project is being run by the local office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which he called “a leftist organization.”
Arab Israelis say police have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and for years largely ignored the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars, and attacks on women.
Meanwhile, there are escalating tensions between Ben Gvir and the police leadership and legal establishment.
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara reportedly said this week Ben Gvir may have “crossed the line” in recent interventions with police affairs and operational matters.
On Thursday, Ben Gvir issued a letter to fellow coalition party chiefs calling for Baharav-Miara to be fired, claiming that she has been “serving as the de facto opposition leader.”
Police chief Kobi Shabtai stressed Friday that the force will remain outside politics and function according to the law, in remarks that appeared directed at Ben Gvir.