Yeshiva students v. Israeli police in coronavirus clashes over seminary closures

Police arrest protesters objecting to religious school closures under Israel’s latest coronavirus lockdown.

By World Israel News Staff

Clashes erupted Monday between hundreds of haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, yeshiva students and police in the southern port city of Ashdod after students attacked city inspectors who came to shut down the educational institutions that remained open in violation of a national coronavirus lockdown, Kan News reported.

Police arrested at least 11 people and three policemen were lightly injured when hundreds of the haredi students blocked roads and refused orders to disperse.

Police were called to the scene after city inspectors, who had arrived in the neighborhood to close a religious school that was open contrary to health regulations, were attacked as well as some policemen who were hit with rocks and sticks.

Health orders last Thursday closed schools for two weeks as Israel battles the third wave of coronavirus infections, but dozens of religious schools in cities with haredi communities remained open despite high infection rates among ultra-Orthodox schoolchildren.

The Bnei Torah Movement that runs the yeshiva in Ashdod issued a statement condemning the police, Ynet reported.

“The ultra-Orthodox public throughout the country is appalled to hear about the criminal attempt by the Ashdod police to shut down the Grodno Yeshiva and evict hundreds of yeshiva students,” the statement said, warning that unless the police backed off the entire haredi sector would be called on to back up the protesters.

“A discussion is taking place at the residence of Torah scholars at this time about the possibility of calling on the [Haredi] public from all over the country to come to Ashdod en masse and physically prevent the horrific and terrible injustice, which is the closure of the yeshiva,” the statement added.

While the majority of mainstream Orthodox Jews have been complying with health regulations, there has been a constant battle between authorities and the more radical haredi sects that claim Torah study is more important.

Police have been called in previously to deal with schools and synagogues in some sections of Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and other cities that refuse to comply with government orders to halt in-school classes.