Ultra-Orthodox extremists riot outside Jerusalem police HQ, block light rail

Hundreds demonstrate at several locations in capital to protest detention of suspect in cellphone store torching; two arrested over disturbances

Haredi protesters blocking a light rail train in Jerusalem on February 21, 2023. (screen capture: Twitter/Yair Levy; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Haredi protesters blocking a light rail train in Jerusalem on February 21, 2023. (screen capture: Twitter/Yair Levy; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Ultra-Orthodox protesters rioted in parts of Jerusalem late Tuesday, vandalizing a police station guard booth, breaking windows on a light rail carriage and blocking roads.

Two people were arrested over the disturbances, police said after midnight as officers worked to disperse the protesters hailing from the hardline Haredi sect known as the Jerusalem Faction.

Hundreds of demonstrators initially rallied at Kikar Hashabbat, a busy square in the heart of ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem, to protest the continued detention of at least one member of the community arrested for their alleged role in attacks on cellphone stores selling devices not approved by ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

The protesters then marched to the city’s Russian Compound, which houses the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court and the Jerusalem police headquarters. According to reports in Hebrew-language media, demonstrators damaged a gate and a booth used by guards at the compound. They also blocked the entrance to a part of the compound where the police’s serious crimes unit is located, the Ynet news website reported.

After being removed from the area, demonstrators massed on Haim Barlev Street, blocking the parts of the central thoroughfare as well as a light rail train. Demonstrators hurled rocks at the train, breaking at least one window, according to reports.

No injuries were reported.

Police, who have been ordered by Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to take care not to use excessive force with Haredi protesters, said in a statement that they “will continue to allow protests within the confines of the law, but won’t allow illegal public disturbances, vandalism and violence.”

The protests came over two months after a woman was seriously injured when she was run over by a flaming dumpster on wheels that had been sent rolling down a street by ultra-Orthodox rioters.

Haredi extremists have held a number of violent demonstrations in recent months to protest the arrests of community members suspected of torching at least one cellphone store in the capital.

Cellphone stores are sometimes targeted by religious extremists for selling devices that allow open access to the internet, which remains taboo in many ultra-Orthodox circles, rather than so-called “kosher” phones that restrict what users can see.

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