Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men broke into the sacred compound at Mount Meron in northern Israel on Tuesday evening, defying police orders limiting entry to the site due to coronavirus and prompting clashes with security forces, which resulted in more than 300 being arrested.
During Lag BaOmer, ultra-Orthodox Jews customarily gather at the tomb of prominent 2nd century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
Celebrations are typically marked with enormous crowds, dancing and the lighting of bonfires.
The government this year put strict limitations on the number of people who could visit the site for the holiday, which began Monday night and ended Tuesday evening.
The festivities on Monday night were highly subdued, with attendance limited to 150 people.
Footage from the site showed numerous men breaking down the door to the compound and forcing their way into the gravesite of Bar Yochai, shortly after police took down many of its checkpoints as the holiday neared its end.
According to a police spokesman, the incident was carried out by “30 to 40 extremists” and police soon arrived to remove them from the site.
The spokesman said that some of the ultra-Orthodox worshippers threw water bottles and stones at the police, and additional video footage from the site showed scuffles and physical confrontations between riot police and worshippers at the site, including calling officers “Nazis.”
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Israelis marked the holiday in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh with large assemblies despite bans on public gatherings of more than 20 people due to the pandemic.
The ultra-Orthodox community has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus outbreak.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said earlier this week that around 70% of the country's more than 16,500 confirmed cases were ultra-Orthodox, who make up around 12% of Israel's population.
Israel started easing restrictions on movement and gathering earlier this month. Israel has reported 260 deaths from COVID-19. Some two thirds of those infected in Israel have already recovered.