Lawmakers from across party lines on Friday condemned violent demonstrations in Jerusalem by hundreds of ultra-Orthodox extremists the night before in which a woman was seriously injured.
The 40-year-old woman, a mother of 10, was hospitalized with light injuries after she was hit by a burning trash bin sent rolling by the protesters. Overnight, her condition deteriorated and she was listed in serious condition by the morning.
The demonstration in the capital’s Mea Shearim neighborhood erupted in response to the arrest of a man suspected of torching a cell phone store several months ago.
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid wished for “a quick recovery to the woman seriously injured yesterday in Haredi protests in Jerusalem.”
“I call on the police to quickly investigate and severely punish the culprits,” he tweeted.
With the incident coming during the transition between the outgoing government and the anticipated coalition of far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties together with Likud, the presumed incoming government ministers were eager to show their hardline security calls applied across community lines.
Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his condemnation of the violence “at the hands of ultra-Orthodox extremists in Jerusalem.”
“I call on the police to catch those responsible for the crime and to deal with them to the full extent of the law. There is no place for violent riots on the streets of Israel,” he said.
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) December 15, 2022
In a statement, incoming national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party called for police to use a “heavy hand” against the demonstrators.
“Violence is not freedom of speech, it’s anarchy,” Ben Gvir said. “Anarchists and bad apples need to be treated with a heavy hand.”
“The rioters who almost murdered a woman and harmed police need to go to prison for a very long time,” he said.
Ben Gvir issued the condemnation despite receiving vocal support from the protesters during the riot.
The protesters shouted at police and Border Police officers, calling them “Nazis, murderers, terrorists,” the Walla news site reported. “Ben Gvir is going to set things in order here,” they said.
Outgoing public security minister Omer Barlev tweeted that the riots were perpetrated by “extremist Haredim trying to take the law into their own hands, and they need to be in jail.”
In a statement, outgoing Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman accused ultra-Orthodox leaders and Netanyahu of “ignoring” the riots and their extremist perpetrators.
“I spoke with a senior police officer in Jerusalem that told me very clearly that the only intervention of the ultra-Orthodox MKs in this situation is to do everything to free rioters who were arrested before Shabbat,” he claimed.
Liberman added: “There is a strong feeling that ultra-Orthodox rioters are allowed to do anything.”
תסתכלי בתמונה. זה לא חוף גואה זה ירושלים וזה לא קומץ והם חרדים. pic.twitter.com/guIv9fthnB
— ????????arie menachem (@ArieMenachem) December 16, 2022
United Torah Judaism chair Yitzchak Goldknopf did slam the violence but claimed it was perpetrated by only “a handful of protesters” and emphasized that protests should be held according to the law.
“Freedom of speech does not justify violence in any way,” Goldknopf said in a statement, calling for the rioters to be dealt with, and hoping for the full recovery of the injured victim.
Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said in a statement he was “shocked to hear about the serious incident,” adding that “violence and riots are not a protest, but a blasphemy of God, and I condemn them wholeheartedly.”
The demonstration followed the arrest of a man suspected of torching a cell phone store several months ago. Cell phone stores are sometimes targeted by religious extremists for not complying with kosher rules restricting the devices.
Hundreds of protesters rallied for hours on Thursday night, blocking roads, torching a traffic light and trash cans, and throwing stones at police.
Firefighters put out the blazes, but one of the trash cans struck the woman, causing the injuries. It wasn’t clear if it was on fire when it hit her.
Police arrested at least two people for disturbing public order and setting fires. The suspects were taken to a police station for questioning.
After the Jerusalem protests began, separate demonstrations erupted in Beit Shemesh, an ultra-Orthodox city between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The Beit Shemesh demonstrations came in response to the arrest of two residents a few days ago for suspected vandalism of public property.