At least two people were arrested in Jerusalem Sunday as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews set trash cans on fire and knocked down barriers, as they protested for a second night against localized lockdowns of neighborhoods aimed at curbing a spread of the coronavirus.
Many of the neighborhoods that have been put on lockdown are majority ultra-Orthodox and residents have accused the government of discrimination against their communities.
They also complain of heavy handed police approaches to Haredi protests when compared to the response to mass demonstrations against government economic policies in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
At demonstrations in Jerusalem late Sunday, protesters tried to knock down the barriers cordoning off their neighborhoods and set fire to several trash cans and dumpsters.
In one case a chemical toilet was set on fire and pushed towards police.
The demonstrators also pelted officers with eggs and in some cases called them “Nazi anti-Semites.” Several people held up printed signs in English reading “#CLM — Charedi Lives Matter.”
במלחמת האחים אני אתם! pic.twitter.com/yKKRzvjLdk
— ZION.G (@Or9uTUMESQcdtK9) July 12, 2020
Others held up signs saying “Police violence, only in Haredi neighborhoods.”
Police said two people were detained for disturbing the peace.
The protests came after 10 people were arrested overnight Saturday in Jerusalem during a night of protests and after a video emerged Sunday of an officer punching a demonstrator. Police said they were investigating the incident.
Some of the protesters directed their anger at ultra-Orthodox lawmakers from the United Torah Judaism and Shas parties that sit in the government.
“Why do we send (Yaakov) Litzman, (Aryeh) Deri and (Moshe) Gafni to the Knesset? At the moment of truth they do nothing for us,” one protester told Channel 12.
Three Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods — Romema, Kiryat Belz and Kiryat Sanz — were among neighborhoods in five towns and cities that were placed under lockdown at 1 p.m. on Friday, a day after cabinet ministers approved the measure as the number of new cases in Israel continued to surge. Travel in and out of the neighborhoods was restricted, as was the operation of businesses within closed-off areas.
Aside from the neighborhoods in the capital, parts of Beit Shemesh, Lod, Ramle and Kiryat Malachi were declared “restricted zones” for seven days. The restrictions were set to be lifted at 8 a.m. on July 17.
On Friday, a lawmaker called on the two ultra-Orthodox parties to temporarily quit the government to protest what he called “selective” targeting of religious neighborhoods for coronavirus lockdowns.
“I call on the Haredi ministers to temporarily quit the government until they remove the selective closures from Haredi neighborhoods,” said Yisrael Eichler, a lawmaker with the ultra-Orthodox UTJ party.
Cabinet ministers, including from UTJ and Shas, approved the measures Thursday.
The protests in Jerusalem came as at least 19 people were arrested following a mass demonstration by thousands of people in Tel Aviv against the government’s handling of the financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.
After the main protest in the city’s Rabin Square, hundreds blocked intersections in the surrounding streets and clashed with police.
With the health crisis intensifying, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a tide of anger and criticism over the government’s handling of its economic fallout, with polls indicating growing disapproval of his stewardship of the economy.
The last few weeks have seen the reversal of many of the gains made in the fight against the coronavirus in recent months. The country had been placed on a nationwide lockdown for several weeks at the start of the outbreak, but removed most of its restrictions by May to reopen the economy. Since then there has been a growing spike in virus infections.
The Health Ministry reported 1,206 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours on Sunday evening, and five additional fatalities, bringing Israel’s overall death toll as a result of the pandemic to 362.
There were 151 people in serious condition as a result of the COVID-19 disease, with 47 requiring mechanical ventilation. Another 108 people were listed in moderate condition with the rest having mild or no symptoms.
The current rate of increase in weekly infections in Israel is one of the highest in the world, according to a chart published last week by the Health Ministry.
Header: “#CLM — Charedi Lives Matter” – Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and youths seen during a protest against the closure on the Romema and Kiryat Belz neighborhoods in Jerusalem that is currently under a lock down in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, on July 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)