Hundreds attend illegal Haredi wedding in makeshift tent near Gaza border

Police bust gathering, hand out dozens of fines at nuptials of grandson of late ultra-Orthodox rabbi, amid anger at large-scale violations in community

The site of a mass funeral held illegally in a makeshift tent in a secret location near the borders with Egypt and the Gaza Strip, after police dispersed most participants, February 2, 2021. (Screenshot: Twitter)
The site of a mass funeral held illegally in a makeshift tent in a secret location near the borders with Egypt and the Gaza Strip, after police dispersed most participants, February 2, 2021. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Police busted an illegal mass wedding Tuesday held in a huge tent concealed between greenhouses near Israel’s borders with Egypt and the Gaza Strip, flouting the law and health regulations.

At least 400 people attended the indoor wedding of the grandson of the late ultra-Orthodox rabbi Yoram Abergel from the town of Netivot, Democrat TV and Channel 12 news reported.

Amid frequent large-scale violations of lockdown rules in the ultra-Orthodox community, the tent was built between greenhouses in a farming area, apparently in an attempt to hold the event without police intervention.

However, the many buses and cars streaming to the area and text messages sent to the participants appeared to have given the location away.

Police forces arrived shortly after the event began — but after the chuppah marriage ceremony — dispersed the crowd, and handed dozens of fines.

Some of the guests attempted to flee through the fields, the reports said. The rush also caused a traffic accident, with no casualties, that caused the local road to be blocked for some time.

Police commander Noam Kaiser called on the public to adhere to the Health Ministry rules banning large gatherings, since violations “disrupt the national fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

“The Israel Police will continue to work with the other authorities and enforcement bodies to stop the spread of the virus,” he said.

However, police have been criticized for failing to take any action against several mass funerals that took place this week, while handing out many fines to people who weren’t in gatherings. In the case of the funerals of leading rabbis in Jerusalem, police told media outlets that dispersing the crowds would have caused “bloodshed.”

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox men attend the funeral of late Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik in Jerusalem, January 31, 2021, (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Figures released on Monday revealed that police were handing out proportionally far more fines in predominantly secular localities than in ultra-Orthodox ones.

According to Channel 13 news, there were 110 fines given in Herzliya per 10,000 residents in the month of January, 117 in Bat Yam and 155 in Tel Aviv. All three locations have a mainly secular population and have generally had relatively low rates of infection throughout the pandemic.

In contrast, there were just 59 fines handed out per 10,000 residents in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which has struggled with high levels of morbidity for large periods of the pandemic and is currently classified as a high infection locality.

The outlet revealed that the number of fines handed out per active coronavirus patient was 3.35 in Tel Aviv, 3.5 in Herzliya, and just 0.3 in Bnei Brak. The report did not clarify whether the fines were handed out for violations of the same severity in all locations.

Ultra-Orthodox demonstrators protest against the police enforcement of lockdown orders due to the coronavirus outbreak, in the city of Bnei Brak, January 24, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Last month saw violent clashes between police in Bnei Brak as protesters opposing lockdown regulations rioted in the city, including setting fire to a bus.

On Sunday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz lambasted the government’s “fake lockdown” and “unequal enforcement” as the Knesset passed a bill stepping up enforcement of the lockdown by doubling fines for violators.

Anger over disregard shown in parts of the Haredi community toward coronavirus restrictions reached new highs on Sunday when authorities failed to stop two large Haredi funerals from taking place, with thousands of people, many maskless, breaking lockdown regulations and failing to observe any social distancing, creating major health hazards.

Ultra-Orthodox men attend the funeral of late Rabbi Yitzchok Sheiner, in Jerusalem, January 31, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The disparity in policing was revealed as data released Monday showed that almost a quarter of all new Israeli coronavirus patients are from the ultra-Orthodox community, highlighting the disastrous spread of COVID-19 through Haredi cities and neighborhoods.

The Health Ministry’s data, based on averages of new cases over the last week, showed that 23 percent of new cases were from people who come from areas that are predominantly Haredi, even though just 12% of Israelis belong to the ultra-Orthodox community.

Nathan Jeffay contributed to this report.

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