Police arrest suspect in assault on reporter at Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox event

Journalist says he was hit, threatened, had his cellphone taken, and was told he could have been killed while reporting on illegal gathering

Screen capture from video filmed at the start of an alleged mass Sukkot celebration in the Kiryat Belz neighborhood of Jerusalem, October 7, 2020; the reporter who filmed it filed a police complaint, saying he was assaulted by participants. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video filmed at the start of an alleged mass Sukkot celebration in the Kiryat Belz neighborhood of Jerusalem, October 7, 2020; the reporter who filmed it filed a police complaint, saying he was assaulted by participants. (Twitter)

Police announced on Thursday that they had arrested a man on suspicion of assaulting a journalist last week as he reported on an illegal mass gathering of members of the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem.

Army Radio’s religious affairs reporter Shahar Glick said he was attacked by a group of ultra-Orthodox men in the Kiryat Belz neighborhood as he waited to report on a celebratory event banned under the national coronavirus lockdown rules.

Police said the suspect they arrested was in his 20s and will appear in court later in the day for a hearing on extending his remand.

“The Israel Police takes a grave view of violent offenses in general, and especially when they are directed at officials carrying out their work, including journalists,” they said in a statement.

Army Radio reporter Shahar Glick (Twitter)

There was no mention of an investigation into any further suspects.

Glick was watching people arrive at the north Jerusalem event in its early stages, and had tweeted a video that showed a few dozen people gathering for what appeared to be a Simhat Beit Hashoeva celebration, an annual tradition that takes place during the week-long Sukkot holiday.

He was spotted in the street by one of the participants, who called over a group of others who surrounded him and beat him, causing him injuries to his head, neck and legs. Glick said the man who spotted him knew he was a reporter and knew his name.

That man took his cellphone away and only returned it to him after making him promise that he would not further cover the event.

Glick said he was taken into an alley by the man, who questioned him, photographed his press card and ID card, and told him that he was risking his life reporting on the community, that those who attacked him could have killed him, and that bad things happen to those who “pry” into other people.

The incident was one of a number of attacks on journalists in Israel and the United States, as they reported on the high virus transmission rates in ultra-Orthodox areas and the mass gatherings that may be helping fuel that rise.

Heshy Tischler, a leader of protests against new coronavirus restrictions in Brooklyn, was charged on Monday with inciting people to riot and unlawful imprisonment of a journalist, after Jewish Insider journalist Jacob Kornbluh was chased and trapped by a crowd.

Jewish Insider reporter Jacob Kornbluh (bottom left) is surrounded by dozens of ultra-Orthodox protesters in Brooklyn, New York, on October 7, 2020. (screencapture/ Twitter)

Kornbluh, who is also an Orthodox Jew and has reported on mass gatherings and relatively infrequent mask-wearing in the community, said he was struck and kicked during the incident.

Earlier this month, journalists for Channel 13 were assaulted near the hardline ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, with several rioters smashing their vehicle’s windows.

Criticism of the ultra-Orthodox community has been growing in recent weeks, as videos have proliferated showing continued refusal to comply with lockdown rules while the rest of the country has seen their freedoms heavily curtailed by the emergency regulations.

Critics have also accused the police of being reluctant to crack down on the ultra-Orthodox, while others have accused officers of using excessive force against Haredi protesters and anti-Netanyahu activists holding regular demonstrations.

In the latest high-profile incident, a violent clash erupted on Wednesday evening as police broke up a wedding held in a private home, saying it broke the rules of the national lockdown.

Police stand on guard as protesters demonstrate against coronavirus regulations in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, October 5, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The ultra-Orthodox have seen soaring coronavirus infection rates with health officials presenting figures on Wednesday that put the positive test rate among Haredim at 12.8 percent, about double recent nationwide numbers, but well below rates of over 20% seen in the community previously.

However the data showed that over the past day, ultra-Orthodox patients made up 35% of all those diagnosed with the virus, though they make up just 12% of the overall population.

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