Extremists riot against expansion of Jerusalem light rail into Haredi neighborhoods

Police arrest four ultra-Orthodox protesters after hundreds block roads, vandalize property; security guard at construction site filmed beating young protester

Police respond to a protest by Haredi extremists against construction work for the Jerusalem Light Rail on July 25, 2022. (Israel Police)
Police respond to a protest by Haredi extremists against construction work for the Jerusalem Light Rail on July 25, 2022. (Israel Police)

Police arrested four people Monday during the latest violent protest by ultra-Orthodox extremists against the extension of Jerusalem’s light rail into their neighborhoods.

Hundreds of Haredi demonstrators, many of them teens, participated in the demonstration at a construction site on Bar Ilan Street in Jerusalem, which sits in the center of several ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

Haredi opponents of expanding the train service fear it will lead to an encroachment on their religious lifestyle by the secular state.

Police said rioters blocked traffic for two hours and that some of them illegally entered the construction site, seeking to tamper with equipment. The demonstrators also burned trash cans, damaged the fence around the construction site and verbally harassed officers and city workers.

Officers dispatched to the scene used riot dispersal measures to restore order, police said, adding that the four demonstrators detained for violating public order were transferred to a nearby station for processing and interrogation.

The police statement on the incident also noted that many of the rioters were minors and criticized their parents for “encouraging their young children” to participate in the demonstrations, which include the illegal entry into construction zones where dangerous equipment is stored.

But in addition to the violence employed by demonstrators, widely-shared footage on social media from the protest also showed one of the security guards at the construction site repeatedly striking one of the young demonstrators as officers stood by.

Haredi extremists have been staging protests for months against efforts to expand the light rail in the capital, but they have intensified in recent weeks and have turned violent in many cases.

In one recent incident, participants attacked an Arab worker with an axe and a second employee had his leg broken and was shot by an air rifle.

At the same time, Haredi media outlets have reported violent incidents directed by Arab workers toward Haredi protesters. According to a report on Thursday by the Haredi news outlet Kikar Hashabbat, a Haredi man was threatened and physically assaulted by two Arab security guards at the Bar Ilan Junction.

Construction work on Bar Ilan Street in Jerusalem was originally scheduled to last two years but is expected to be delayed by up to a year due to the ongoing disruptions.

The Monday demonstration came a day after state prosecutors indicted five ultra-Orthodox extremists for trespassing and rioting at the same construction site earlier this month.

In two separate incidents that took place a week ago, prosecutors allege that the accused broke into the light rail construction site on Bar Ilan Street in Jerusalem, sat inside holes dug up as part of the construction work and refused to move.

After a short while, the protesters were removed and arrested after refusing calls by the police to leave on their own. Prosecutors said that three of those indicted on Sunday had also violated orders to stay away from the site following earlier arrests.

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