Public Security Minister Amir Ohana on Monday met with a teenage ultra-Orthodox girl who last week was filmed sobbing in the street as two police officers briefly stopped her for not wearing a face mask as required under directives to prevent the coronavirus spread.
Footage of Batya Getter’s encounter with the officers prompted complaints from ultra-Orthodox cabinet members who said that police are harassing their community with overly strict enforcement of virus guidelines in public spaces.
In the video, Getter, 13, begins to cry as police question her. According to witnesses and the girl’s mother, she had been wearing a mask, but moved it off of her face to drink a slushie. As a crowd gathers to argue in defense of the girl, the two officers left the scene without writing out a citation for the NIS 500 ($144) fine for not wearing a mask.
“I regret the incident. My heart went out to you when I saw the clip,” Ohana told Getter when she met him accompanied by her father. “It was important to me to meet and hear from you. These days I am dedicating, and will dedicate, a lot of time to continually improve the ties between the police and the ultra-Orthodox community.”
1. הבטיחו לשוטרים חופשה באשקלונה למי שמביא הכי הרבה דוחות?
ניידת עוצרת באמצע הכביש, השוטרים ניגשים אל ילדה בת 10 שהלכה לבדה ברחוב ומכניסים אותה ללחץ (לטענתה הורידה את המסכה לשניה כדי לשתות ברד, אבל זה כלל לא משנה) ולא הולכים משם לפני שרושמים לה דוח.
גם הבכי שלה לא שכנע אותם >>> pic.twitter.com/HpeAnRzrAa
— יבגני זרובינסקי (@ivgiz) July 6, 2020
Earlier Monday Getter and her family met with Jerusalem District Chief Superintendent Shimi Marciano and Chief Rabbi of the Israel Police Rami Brachyahu.
“I want you to know that police officers are good people who protect and take care of the public,” Marciano told Getter. “I hope you come out of here today smiling and with a good feeling.”
Her father Yehoshua Getter told Marciano that “the Jewish people need unity. I want us to unify, to reconcile, and to continue on,” Hebrew media reported.
The video sparked an outcry among ultra-Orthodox politicians who claimed the ultra-Orthodox community was being singled out by police.
However, police said in a statement at the time that the claims made around the video — that the officers were intending to fine her — are false and that the cops had simply told the girl to fix her mask and sent her on her way.
“This is another completely false and distorted publication within the framework of a trendy campaign these days against police and the officers working on behalf of public health,” the statement said.
There is rising tension in the ultra-Orthodox community surrounding enforcement of Health Ministry guidelines for social distancing and wearing of face masks amid claims by some of its members that the community is subject to heightened enforcement. There have been several filmed incidents recently of police violence against members of the ultra-Orthodox community over the virus rules.
The government last week also announced lockdowns of neighborhoods in five cities and towns, many of them with ultra-Orthodox majority areas. Residents have protested, sometimes violently, against the lockdowns.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, on Sunday condemned what he called “deliberate violence by police against ultra-Orthodox protesters,” contrasting how the police treat religious and secular citizens during demonstrations, news site Walla reported.
There is “selective enforcement against the ultra-Orthodox public,” he asserted, declaring that “it has to stop.”
Also Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, leader of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party.
Litzman pushed back against the government for “imposing restrictions on movement in ultra-Orthodox cities and neighborhoods only” and “serious allegations of selective and discriminatory police behavior toward ultra-Orthodox demonstrators,” according to Hebrew media reports.
Netanyahu met with Litzman again the next day, along with Deri, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Public Security Minister Ohana and other lawmakers to discuss the issue.