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Chaos as police break up large Haredi funeral in Jerusalem, arrest 11

Police broke up another illegal mass funeral in Jerusalem on Monday night, with reports that the father of the deceased was assaulted and pallbearers dropped the body during scuffles between officers and hundreds of mourners.

The crackdown came amid growing concerns by law enforcement that gatherings among the ultra-Orthodox could increase over the weekend’s Simchat Torah holiday in violation of the lockdown rules.

Officers dispersed an ultra-Orthodox funeral procession attended by hundreds of people making its way to the Mount of Olives, arresting 11 participants and issuing fines, according to a statement from police. The burial was linked to the Toldot Aharon Hasidic sect, according to Hebrew media reports.

Ultra-Orthodox media said the police’s dispersal of the burial caused the pallbearers to drop the body of the deceased, a young man who died suddenly of a heart condition. The deceased’s father was beaten by police, according to Kikar HaShabat and the Behadrey Haredim websites.

Police did not comment on these allegations.

The Kan public broadcaster reported late Monday that acting police commissioner Moti Cohen told senior ministers that parts of the ultra-Orthodox community do not plan on ever falling in line with the lockdown, predicting many more confrontations on Saturday, Simchat Torah.

The holiday of Simchat Torah, which wraps up Sukkot, is normally marked with raucous gatherings and sometimes heavy drinking among religious communities.

Cohen’s warning came as additional closure breaches and clashes between police and lockdown violators in the Haredi community were reported around the country.

Riots were reported in the Mea Shearim neighborhood, where residents were said to throw rocks at officers. Police made several arrests, according to Kan. In Bnei Brak, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men gathered in prayer while police officers looked on, according to Channel 13.

Separately, the municipalities of Jerusalem and Karmiel organized holiday concerts and parties, encouraging mass gatherings despite the nationwide lockdown, according to a television report on Monday.

Channel 12 reported that some 200 people gathered in Jerusalem’s Shaare Hesed neighborhood for a Sukkot party on Monday organized by the city. Aerial footage of the event signaled the participants were not observing social distancing.

In Karmiel, in northern Israel, a concert by singer Hanan Ben Ari was arranged by city hall to cheer up the residents, but ended up drawing large crowds in violation of the closure, the network said. Ben Ari, who performed on a makeshift stage pitched on a truck, stopped after one song, telling the crowd he could not continue as it violated the health rules, the Ynet news site reported.

The TV report did not feature responses from city officials.

Earlier Monday, thousands of people gathered at a funeral in Ashdod for a Hasidic rabbi [The Pittsburgh Rebbe] who died overnight after contracting COVID-19.

The ceremony ended with clashes between mourners and police seeking to disperse the crowds.

Police had approved the funeral, but in smaller numbers.

Criticism of the ultra-Orthodox community has been growing in recent days, with reports showing that a significant number have been disregarding lockdown restrictions during the Sukkot holiday, including by continuing to host mass gatherings.

As police have stepped up enforcement, there has also been increasing anger within the ultra-Orthodox community and accusations of disproportionate force, including against children.

Sunday saw violent clashes between police and ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem and in Bnei Brak, where 13 people were arrested as officers broke up mass gatherings for the holiday. Besides violating the restrictions on gatherings in enclosed spaces, police said most worshipers were not wearing masks or adhering to social distancing rules. After cops started handing out fines, the worshipers “began resisting and disturbing public order,” according to police.

The ultra-Orthodox community has seen high coronavirus infection rates, with an assessment last week finding that the rate of infection in the community is 2.5 times that of the national average.

The country’s coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu said last week that 40 percent of recent virus cases were in the ultra-Orthodox community, which constitutes some 12% of the population.

Header: Ultra-Orthodox Jews attend the funeral of Pittsburgh Rebbe Mordechai Leifer in the city of Ashdod on October 5, 2020. (Photo by Flash90)

Source: TOI