Criminal probe opened into mass ultra-Orthodox wedding in Jerusalem

Police decry ‘blatant violation’ of virus rules after thousands don’t wear masks or distance at Hasidic event indoors; report says Haredi lawmaker was present

A screenshot from a video said to show thousands of ultra-Orthodox at a wedding in Jerusalem, in violation of coronavirus restrictions, on August 5, 2020. (Screenshot/Channel 12)
A screenshot from a video said to show thousands of ultra-Orthodox at a wedding in Jerusalem, in violation of coronavirus restrictions, on August 5, 2020. (Screenshot/Channel 12)

Police on Thursday launched a criminal investigation into a mass ultra-Orthodox wedding in Jerusalem held in violation of coronavirus regulations limiting gatherings.

Some 2,000 people are estimated to have attended Wednesday’s wedding for the grandson of the spiritual leader of the Belz Hasidic sect, with images from the event showing thousands of people sitting next to each other, indoors, without keeping distance or wearing masks.

The celebrations began outdoors, where participants were filmed wearing masks. The event then moved indoors. Channel 12 reported that organizers attempted to bar people from filming the indoor celebrations, but the footage leaked out.

In a statement, police stressed officers met with organizers before the wedding in an effort to prevent violations of the virus restrictions.

“After the regulations were violated, fines were written on the spot, including fines of NIS 5,000 for organizers,” police said.

An investigation was also opened into suspected licensing offenses.

“We view severely the blatant violation of the regulations in a way that endangers the public’s health, and we’ll continue to enforce the regulations for the well-being of the public and its health,” police said.

The police announcement of the investigation came as Channel 12 news reported that United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler, a member of Belz, attended the wedding.

United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler at a Knesset committee meeting on November 8, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He refused to comment.

The network also reported that organizers had asked on Tuesday for permission to hold a protest gathering in support of police, but the request was denied after it turned out the planned demonstration was meant to serve as cover for the wedding.

Under the current government rules, weddings are capped at 20 people outdoors; protests are exempt from limitations, though social distancing must be observed.

Earlier Thursday, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion pushed back against criticism of the wedding, claiming ongoing protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in the capital pose a graver danger to public health.

Israel has struggled in recent months to contain the coronavirus outbreak, confirming close to 2,000 new infections a day. The country had 25,285 active cases as of Thursday night, according to Health Ministry figures.

The protests against Netanyahu’s alleged corruption and handling of the pandemic have grown in recent weeks, with some of the demonstrations drawing over 10,000 people.

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