Clashes in capital’s Mea Shearim over lockdown; many Haredi schools said to open

Police say residents of Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhood threw rocks, bags of trash at officers; educational institutions around country reported to breach virus rules

Police clash with ultra-Orthodox Jewish men while enforcing lockdown rules in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood on January 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police clash with ultra-Orthodox Jewish men while enforcing lockdown rules in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood on January 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Clashes broke out Thursday in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood as police enforced lockdown rules there, with dozens of Haredi schools reported to be open in violation of coronavirus restrictions.

Police said rocks and bags of trash were thrown at officers, who detained seven people on suspicion of violating public order.

A police statement said officers were continuing to operate in the neighborhood.

In videos from the neighborhood, residents could be heard calling the cops “Nazis.” One clip showed an officer with yolk on his head after he was pelted with an egg.

A cop was also filmed kicking a Haredi child who stepped in front of him as he escorted a detainee.

The violence came as the Haaretz daily reported that dozens of schools affiliated with hardline ultra-Orthodox groups opened Thursday in breach of the lockdown. None of the educational institutions were known to have been fined or closed down by police.

Most of the schools that opened were in Jerusalem, along with Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh, Ashdod, Elad and Modiin Illit, according to the report.

Separately, video showed students singing and holding circle dances at a national-religious yeshiva in the West Bank settlement on Beit El, in violation of the lockdown.

Since the lockdown began on Friday, dozens of educational institutions in ultra-Orthodox communities have continued to operate, facing only minimal pushback by police. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been accused of turning a blind eye to the violations, due to pressure from his Haredi coalition partners.

Young Haredi residents of Ashdod clash with police who were dispatched to shutter a yeshiva in the southern coastal city that was operating in violation of the national coronavirus lockdown, on January 11, 2020. (Flash90)

The vast majority of the yeshivas violating the lockdown were affiliated with extremist sectors of the Haredi community, such as the Jerusalem Faction, with mainstream ultra-Orthodox institutions largely adhering to government guidelines. However, there has been growing speculation that that adherence will not last much longer, given the importance that Haredi community leaders see in keeping their educational institutions operating under almost any circumstance.

The Health Ministry official overseeing action to counter the coronavirus among the ultra-Orthodox population revealed last week that the community has recently accounted for over a quarter of all the new cases diagnosed, even though it makes up little more than one-tenth of the total population.

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