Radical ultra-Orthodox Jews protesting health restrictions attacked in town of Modiin-Elit, police close down prayer services and hand out fines in Beit Shemesh.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Local residents attacked a group of radical ultra-Orthodox, or haredi, protesters Tuesday, chasing them from in front of a supermarket and exchanging blows in a video that was shared on local media.
The altercation took place in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox town of Modi’in-Ilit, located about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Members of the extremist “Jerusalem Faction” held placards saying, “You go to supermarket but not to pray in a quorum of 10.” Health authorities endorsed by religious leaders banned group prayer and ordered all places of worship closed to stem the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus.
The Jerusalem Faction is a hard-line ultra-Orthodox political party and religious movement that vehemently objects to religious Jews serving in the Israeli military. Its leaders object to those coronavirus health restrictions that impinge on religious obligation, especially the ban on group prayer which under normal circumstances are required three times daily.
Filmed from a window overlooking the entrance to the supermarket, the video shows several men who are not ultra-orthodox shoving and chasing several of the placard-carrying protesters and exchanging kicks and punches with them as people watching shouted out encouragement.
“Citizens who are fed up with the handful of extremists decided to take them on once and for all,” tweeted Ariel Elharar.
The highest coronavirus infection rates have been in areas with high concentrations of ultra-Orthodox, with infection being spread by high population density, group prayers and mass gatherings traced back to the Purim festival in February.
While most areas eventually got the message and are complying, there are still pockets of fervent believers who object to restrictions on their religious practice.
Police also took criticism when they were accused of not enforcing health guidelines intended to stem the exponential spread of the virus, especially in ultra-Orthodox areas.
“I happen to be from the area. An overwhelming majority of the ultra-Orthodox… adhere to the guidelines, but this crazy bunch does damage to both itself and the rest of the ultra-Orthodox,” Tal Samo tweeted. “They should take what they deserve and even then it’s not enough.”
In the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh police closed down synagogues that were still opening for prayers and handed out fines.
“About 30 worshipers were found in a synagogue in Beit Shemesh, contrary to public health orders. One suspect who spit on a Border Police officer was arrested for questioning,” police said.