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Police called after Arab, Jewish families clash in hospital ward

Visitors paying last respects to Arab man said to attack Jewish family as quarrel over singing Shabbat songs escalates into violence

View of the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, March 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption)
View of the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, March 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption)

A violent brawl reportedly broke out in a Jerusalem hospital over the weekend as a Jewish and an Arab family clashed over the shared space in a ward.

Police were called to Shaare Zedek Medical Center when fighting broke out in the oncology department, Channel 12 reported Sunday. There were no injuries reported in the incident, and police opened an investigation.

The Gerstel family, who are Jewish, were visiting their family member when an Arab patient in the same ward died. Family members began to arrive to pay their last respects and as the space became crowded, tensions escalated, according to the report.

Elimelech Gerstel told the TV station that he arrived at the hospital on Friday with his mother, brother and sister to visit his father. After the other patient died, “dozens of people arrived and flooded the room,” which, he said, had three other patients in it.

The situation became tense when the Gerstel family started singing Shabbat songs, a Jewish tradition on the weekly day of rest. One of those visiting the deceased man told the Gerstels that the singing was disturbing him, the report said.

Then, as more people arrived to pay their respects, Gerstel’s sister asked that they not crowd the room so much. In response, Gerstel says, they attacked her, and the man who had complained earlier about their singing threw a chair at her.

“This is a very serious incident and I hope police bring the perpetrators to justice,” Gerstel told Channel 12.

Police opened an investigation and took a statement from Gerstel’s sister, he said.

The hospital said in a statement that it takes a “very serious view” of violence within the medical center and that it was carrying out its own investigation of the affair.

The issue of violence in the health care system gained prominence in Israel with numerous incidents, including attacks on staff, reported each year.

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