Opinion: Coming Soon…Tanks in Meah Shearim

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protestBy David Katz, Etrog News
Yerushalayim policemen crossed a red line Monday night when they used stun grenades, tear gas and pepper gas against chareidi demonstrators, in addition to turning a blind eye when demonstrators were plowed down by an Arab taxi driver. The police lost all control and became exceedingly violent in their efforts to “protect the peace”. Such behavior by police has not been witnessed by chareidi demonstrators in Yerushalayim for many years.

The city of Yerushalayim has seen tens, if not hundreds of protests in the last 50 years. Ever since the murder of the Pinchas Saglov Hy”d during a demonstration on Rechov Yaffo 40 years ago, in support of the sanctity of Shabbos, police have reacted towards protestors with violence dozens of times. People have been hurt, there have been instances of collective punishment, homes and entire streets have been blanketed in clouds of tear gas, green and blue water has been sprayed on demonstators, there have been brutal beatings that left people crippled for life, and there have been barbed wire roadblocks shutting off entire streets during the days when a battle raged over Bar Ilan Street. For most of my youth and adulthood, I have been witness to dozens of protests in Yerushalayim.

 It doesn’t matter who is demonstrating. It can be residents of Meah Shearim protesting the desecration of the holy Shabbos, demonstrating against stores that open for business on Shabbos, against stores that sell treife meat, against autopsies, against the arrests of demonstrators, or against anything else. Whether the demonstrators are level headed, respectable members of society, who hold a protest to express their disapproval of some particular issue, or if a protest is lead by a rebellious teenager who thoughtlessly sets a garbage can on fire, the police do not seem to discriminate with regard to whom they set their wrath upon. Oftentimes, their reactions to protests get completely blown out of proportion.

I haven’t written a word about the innocent pedestrians who happen to be passing through the middle of a demonstration (hundreds of chareidi Jews reside in Geulah and Meah Shearim) and fall prey to police violence, equally meted out to demonstrators and anyone else in the vicinity – in a clear expression of boredom, frustration, or naked hate on the part of the policemen. After they policemen were forbidden to put into practice “skills” they were taught during the Palestinian intifada, they are all to eager to show the chareidim what they learned in those special courses.

It doesn’t matter who is protesting, or why. In every case, the policemen release their frustrations on the chareidi demonstrators and pedestrians alike, whether or not the violence is actually justified.

Monday night, a Jew was murdered in Geulah. The motive was not nationalistic, even though the murderer was a Palestinian. He got into an argument with a homeless man staying at the hostel on Rechov Tzfania, and stabbed the man to death a few hours after the argument. The Jew bled to death, and all efforts to save his life failed. The police automatically went in to action. A murder? An investigation is in order. Fine. First, the murderer must be apprehended (he was soon located in Eastern Yerushalayim). Then evidence must be gathered from the scene of the crime, in order to re-enact the murder. And of course, any time there is an unnatural death or a murder, an autopsy must be performed on the body.

Police Obstinacy

Until today, the police have not found a way to deal with this issue opposite the chareidi community. They cannot understand the concept of respect for the deceased individual, of preserving a semblance of holiness, of how desecrating a dead body is a serious transgression. And they cannot understand why Torah observant Jews are prepared to suffer in order to uphold these principles.

But instead of engaging in dialogue, they raise their hands to throw stun grenades, they choke an entire neighborhood with tear gas, they prevent thousands of elderly Jews, of babies and children, from sleeping at night. And only because one foolish policeman – and his rank and position are not important at this point – decided that the body of the murder victim must undergo an autopsy, come what may. Perhaps there are other ways of investigating the murder. Perhaps someone could speak with the chareidim about the dilemma. No. The policeman decided that he was right in making the decision that he did. For he is wiser than everyone else.

The arrogance possessed by the police encourages them to do whatever they want: from shooting live ammunition into the air, to hermetically sealing off an entire neighborhood, to ordering policeman to go to battle with a few hundred demonstrators, some of whom are delinquent teenagers. As a result, dozens of people are injured in the middle of the night. And nobody – not a single policeman – will have to answer for his actions back at the station.

The Israel Police Force has decided that in reaction to the Shabbos demonstration, and the insults that were hurled (quite unnecessary, in my opinion) at the policemen by a few undisciplined teenagers, a new policy would be adopted: “Zero tolerance for Chareidi Violence”. Like a little boy whose feelings are hurt when someone calls him “baby.”

The events that occurred in Yerushalayim  Monday night may only be a preview of what the future holds in store for the chareidi community in the capital city. The police, under the foggy guidance of Commissioner Dudi Cohen, are adopting the new policy: “Zero Tolerance.” I would like to add, also “Zero Patience.” And while a policeman knows how to count from zero to zero, he apparently doesn’t know how to count to ten, and say to himself – “Wait a minute. I am getting out of control here. We are all suffering.” And I am sure that there are many policemen who get no enjoyment at all out of working the “Meah Shearim Riot” shift.

Nobody can predict what will happen next. Anyone who spent Monday night in the streets of Geulah and Meah Shearim will tell you it felt like a war zone. The cries of the injured, the insults heaped upon the policemen. Sounds of shooting, and people shouting out in confusion and panic. Nobody in the area got any sleep that very long night, even if he shut his windows tightly. The noises filling the air were too frightening to permit anyone to close his eyes and dream.

At some point during the night, the police attempted to take the body of the murder victim by force, in order to fulfill the mission assigned to them by one not very smart police officer. They were unsuccessful, and so perhaps the next step will be to bring tanks in to block the entrance to Meah Shearim…

Does it sound like a bad dream? Not really.

{Etrog/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. In the end of Shmuel, Dovid hamelech had the seven children and grandchildren of Shaul Hamelech, hung. He did not watch or appoint anyone to watch the bodies of these children, from being mutulated by animals.
    The Miforshim say that the reason for their killing could not have simply to avenge the Givoinim because a) the Midrash says that Shaul didn’t actually kill them, he just deminished their Parnosoh b)no-where is it heard of that a Goy should be able to choose Yidden to be killed to avenge his misfortune c)we see that Dovid was able to choose exactly which ones of Shauls Kids should be hung.
    The underlying reason was that Dovid had a feeling that a revolt from the friends of shaul was coming against his dynesty.

  2. The police showed incredible restraint thus far. In situations of riots, police must use any and all tools at their disposal to regain control of the streets. No matter how chashuv a rav may be, if he is unable to walk away from a despicable rioting mob, he places himself into the danger of being in the wrong place when the police finally crush the riot. If it takes tanks, shutting water and electricity, and collective consequences it’s so well and fine. The rioters chose to act like this; they must deal with the consequences.

  3. You say “But instead of engaging in dialogue, they raise their hands to throw stun grenades, they choke an entire neighborhood with tear gas, they prevent thousands of elderly Jews, of babies and children, from sleeping at night.”

    What about the chareidim and their violence? They light things on fire, they throw rocks, etc. You could say the police struck first. They’ll say the Chareidim did. It becomes a chicken-egg situation.

    Ultimately, what matters is that these people are making a huge chillul Hashem. I’ve heard many people say, “What’s going on there, these religious fanatics are going crazy.” I’ve heard it from Jews, non-Jews, seen it posted on non-Jewish web sites, and they all say the same thing – what these people are doing is wrong. That’s a chillul Hashem.

  4. He who doesn’t riot in the streets – doesn’t get hurt

    In a neighborhood where people don’t act like animals – the police doesnt come into that neighborhood in force

    just use seichel ..

    don’t riot..

    don’t behave like thugs ..

    and you & your neighborhood will be safe

  5. If you support a “zero tolerance” policy toward rioting Arabs, than this should be no difference. Stop acting like beheimos. Don’t give the police ANY excuse for violence, same goes for the police in EVERY country. The police are outnumbered, under pressure and WILL hurt you if they feel threatened.

  6. Excellent.
    Orthoblurb and the rest of you, how many times did you witness a demonstration in Israel in person. Don’t rely on the media (even religious since it’s usually just cut and paste) for ANY information about demonstrations.
    Anyone whho has BEEN at these demonstrations knows that Israeli police are completely out of wack! And how dare you compare bus bombers to “rioters”(the latest media influenced term that is used freely).

  7. “olam hafuch” says “he who doesn’t riot in the streets doesn’t get hurt” – WRONG!!!!!!!

    FINALY someone writes an article saying the way it is here in israel, instead of a bunch of ignorant people who have no clue whats really going on in the streets here.

    The police are WAY outta control. i personally have seen many innocent people who have been victims of basic civil rights abuse,and police brutality, yet we hardly hear anyone say anything about it, including much of the “frum” media, all they can do is criticize their fellow frumme yiddin. (which is fine if thats what they feel, BUT-)HOW can they ignore the terrible mistreatment of civillians being perpetrated by this “great” civilized govermnment in israel.


  8. When I was in Israel, I was walking home from Yeshiva one night, and a police car came crashing into me. I ran against the wall out of panic, and the last second, the police car swerved away, to avoid themselves crashing into the wall. A while later I found out that there was a demonstration taking place a few blocks away. Such is life in Israel.


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