As Israel collectively mourned its fallen soldiers on the eve of Memorial Day Monday, a few dozen ultra-Orthodox insulted the memory of the fallen when they rioted in Shabbat Square. The demonstrators set garbage cans and dumpsters alight and blocked off the area to traffic. Police were called to the scene and closed it off to pedestrians.
Demonstrators set garbage cans, dumpsters ablaze (Photo: Gil Yochanan)
Police confirmed that the demonstration was prompted by Memorial Day and said they viewed the incident with extreme gravity. Despite this, no suspects were arrested. In past years members of the haredi sector have also held unruly demonstrations on Memorial Day.
Lately posters have been hung around Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood declaring, “Zionists are dogs,” “Beware! Zionists’ bite” and “The Zionist beast is not human.” An extremist faction called the “Sikrikim” belonging to Neturei Karta is responsible for the campaign. Police assessed that the signs were pasted up specifically in advance of Independence Day, but added that they could also be expressions of protest for the arrest of Yisrael Vales, the Yeshiva youth accused of beating his three-month-old son to death recently. Vales was released on bail.
Vales belongs to an ultra-Orthodox faction known to be extremist, which objects to the existence of Israel as a state and even refuses to accept allowances from the Israeli government. The “Sikrikim” faction is considered the most extreme, and many similar riots took place over the past month protesting Vales' arrest until his release.
Not only the ultra-Orthodox used the occasion of Memorial Day to hold protests. Demonstrators opposed to Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria raised a black flag on Givat Shaul Street in Jerusalem which read, “Gush Katif and Amona – we won’t forget and we won’t forgive.” Passersby who saw the flag called the authorities.