Clashes erupted Sunday between police and ultra-Orthodox men in the southern city of Arad, after officers raided a building that belongs to a local youth group and which Haredi residents had allegedly seized and turned into a synagogue.
The Arad municipality said teenagers from the Hebrew Scouts Movement in Israel arrived at the site Sunday morning to find the building locked, but with the air conditioning turned on and sounds of prayer coming from inside. When the scouts knocked on the door, those inside suddenly became silent, and the teens alerted the authorities.
The town’s leadership subsequently instructed police to break open the lock and return the structure to its owners. That sparked clashes between law enforcement and the dozens of ultra-Orthodox worshipers present. Channel 13 news reported that the municipality director general and a councilwoman, who was at the scene to oversee the police operation, were lightly injured by rioters and that one ultra-Orthodox man had been arrested.
Ultra-Orthodox residents in the town charge that the municipality has barred them from opening additional synagogues despite the growth of their population.
מהומה פרצה לפני זמן קצר בערד, לאחר שלטענת התושבים חסידי גור השתלטו על מקלט שהיה שייך לתנועת הצופים, הוציאו ציוד והפכו אותו לבית כנסת. המשטרה המקומית, יחד עם גורמים מעיריית ערד, פרצו את המנעולים ועצרו אדם אחד. מנכ"ל העירייה וחברת מועצה נפצעו קל @bokeralmog pic.twitter.com/1jMN3pWkb4
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) August 11, 2019
Tensions have risen as the city’s veteran, secular residents have been voicing opposition to the fast-growing Haredi population in Arad.
In a statement responding to the incident, Arad Mayor Nissan Ben Hamo said, “On Tisha B’Av of all days, Hasidim from the Gur sect found it appropriate to break in and invade another building. The municipality will act with determination against such delinquency with zero tolerance.”
He added that “Arad was and will remain a secular, liberal and pluralistic city, and anyone who thinks they can change the status quo through violence is sorely mistaken.”