Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Nissan 5765 - May 4, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Police Storm Satmar Beis Medrash in Jerusalem

By Betzalel Kahn

The department for investigations of police officers at the Justice Ministry plans to open an investigation against a squad from a special police patrol unit (Yechidat Siyur Merchavi) which burst into the Satmar beis medrash on Rechov Yoel in Jerusalem and went on a rampage, breaking the main door and beating congregants with rifles and clubs and arresting several. Ranking police commanders at Jerusalem Police are embarrassed over the incident and none are willing to take responsibility. The Interior Security Minister has already asked District Commander Ilan Franko to investigate the incident as soon as possible.

The incident took place Tuesday night of Chol Hamoed when a band of fringe elements ignited garbage bins at Kikar HaShabbat after demonstrations over grave destruction in the north. Police arrived at the scene on motorcycles and started to pursue the youths who ran in the direction of Rechov Yoel. Several passersby suspected by the policemen of involvement in the arson incident were seen entering the Satmar beis medrash and the police followed them into the building.

Breaking through the front door — which was not locked — the policemen began to apply force against men in the beis medrash who had no connection to the incident. The event was documented by video camera from start to finish and broadcast throughout the media, raising serious questions regarding Jerusalem Police's apparent lack of respect for botei knesses and other Jewish holy places.

Chareidi public figures decried the gall shown by the policemen who entered the beis knesses during tefillas Ma'ariv and began to beat congregants while they were davening Ma'ariv, claiming in an official statement the action was allegedly in reaction to injuries sustained by five policemen and that "from inside the yeshiva building hundreds of people hurled rocks, cinder blocks, iron rods and benches at the policemen."

An inquiry conducted by MK Rabbi Meir Porush during Chol Hamoed found that no policemen had been injured as claimed by Jerusalem Police spokeswomen. Rabbi Porush tried to visit the policeman who had supposedly suffered moderate injuries but learned that no policemen had been admitted to the city's hospitals. The policeman referred to had been released minutes after his arrival without any certainty that the injury to his leg took place during the incident.

Magen David Adom says its personnel did not evacuate a single police officer from the scene. Jerusalem Police, long known for unreliable reports on matters related to the chareidi sector, say the announcement of the moderately injured policeman reached the media by mistake. Yet despite media reports the raid on the building was wholly unprovoked the police did not change its version of the events. Police commanders say the squad commander did not receive approval from headquarters to break into the building.

On Monday ZAKA contacted Jerusalem District Police Commander Ilan Franko to demand he look into why Haztoloh Mehiroh volunteers were not allowed to administer first aid to the injured. "Hatzoloh Mehiroh motor scooters were not permitted to approach the beis medrash despite the cries for help of the injured in need of treatment," ZAKA claims.

Several years ago a retired commander Ilan Amit was removed from his post after his policemen burst into Beis Knesses Ohr Hatzafon in the Neve Tzvi neighborhood during Shabbos demonstrations on Bar-Ilan Road. The incident led to a public furor and then Interior Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani did not back Amit, who soon retired from the police force.

"Without a doubt Interior Security Minister Gidon Ezra must put Commander Ilan Franko in his place and notify him he must draw the appropriate personal conclusions from the grave incident, the like of which has not taken place in Jerusalem for many years," said a chareidi public figure.

At the behest of chareidi public figures, Minister Ezra instructed the Jerusalem District Commander to conduct an investigation and submit a written report within days. Meanwhile the department for investigations of policemen plans to open an investigation against the policemen involved in the pogrom if complaints are filed by the victims. The Knesset is expected to convene a special meeting to discuss the incident.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said nowhere in the world would such an incident be allowed to pass quietly. "It was the policemen who ignited the fire there, with a completely flawed decision by their commanders, and somebody will have to be held accountable for this story. I am not in favor of violent demonstrations. Every [action] must be done according to the instructions of gedolei haTorah, who condemn violence. But what took place here by the police and a few ruffians in it crosses all boundaries of permissibility. Were such an incident to take place elsewhere in the world it would draw furious reactions in Israel. . . . in this case there was no need for the police to enter the beis knesses, and the pogrom that was committed there will be studied exhaustively and we will not allow the system to let it go quietly."

The Knesset Interior Committee is slated to hold an in-depth meeting to discuss the incident after MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni submitted a copy of the shocking video showing the pogrom perpetrated by police to Committee Chairman MK Raleb Majadele. "This cannot be lightly dismissed," said Rabbi Gafni. "I hope those responsible for this criminal act will be held accountable to the full extent of the law, including reaching personal conclusions against all of the ranking commanders who gave backing to the policemen from the patrol unit and granted them permission to break into the beis medrash."


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