A volunteer policeman in the central city of Petah Tikva assaulted an elderly rabbi outside a synagogue on Saturday following a fight over mask-wearing.
Footage posted by the Ynet news site Thursday shows the man knocking the elderly ultra-Orthodox rabbi to the ground and violently kicking him in his face and chest before bystanders separate the two.
“He leapt at him like a ninja,” said an eyewitness, named only by his first name, Yaakov. “What did a 70-year-old person do to you?”
The rabbi has filed a police complaint, the report said.
The volunteer cop carries a licensed firearm, but he wasn’t in uniform during the attack and police said he hadn’t been on duty, vowing to investigate him “like any civilian.”
לא להאמין שזה הגיע למצב כזה. אדם מפ"ת שמתבטא לאחרונה נגד חרדים על כך שלטענתו אינם מקפידים על עטיית מסכה מזנק על רב כבן 70 בעיר ומרסק אותו. עד ראייה שהיה במקום סיפר לי: "הבן אדם זינק עליו כמו נינג'ה. מה בן אדם בן 70 עשה לך? הכי מטריד שהוא מסתובב עם נשק. זה מפחיד" @ynetalerts pic.twitter.com/oxQKjwRnvM
— גלעד כהן Gilad Cohen (@GiladCohenJR) June 3, 2020
Yaakov said the incident came after an argument broke out over the weekend between members of the congregation and the volunteer cop over the wearing of protective face masks to prevent coronavirus infections.
“For two or three days this guy was harassing everyone in the synagogue,” he said. “He had a confrontation on Shabbat, and since then he has been walking around and calling police, claiming that people aren’t wearing masks.
“The absurd part is that everyone was wearing masks. Obviously, it was the rabbi himself who forced everyone to be with a mask over their mouths and noses. In the end he was the one who was the target of that man’s fury, under the claim that he’s ‘caring for the public,’” the witness added.
A second witness, who wasn’t named in the report, said the rabbi had gone outside and shouted at the man to get out of the synagogue. It was then that the attack occurred.
“It is alarming that this man still carries a gun,” said Yaakov. “The rabbi says he is okay. I pressured him to go and get examined and I really hope he did.”
Ynet said that the attacker had written a Facebook post Saturday night about an “insolent worshiper passing from synagogue to synagogue, refusing to put on a face mask. The community rabbi spoke to him to no avail. The worst part is that his brother caught the coronavirus.”
He added, “Of course I have received many threats from his friends that I will die, and they have wished my parents to die of cancer and COVID-19. But the law is above all.”
The suspect’s attorney said the attack was a single incident that doesn’t represent his normal behavior.
“He was attacked first,” the lawyer, Kobi Palomo, said. “The published material tells of a sort of violent behavior, but this clip doesn’t include all the stages of the incident.”