Some 500 haredim clashed on Saturday night in a brawl that broke out in Ashdod's Zayin quarter on the backdrop of an ongoing conflict between Ashkenazi and Sephardic haredim in the area. Four haredim were arrested and brought in by the police for investigation.
The Ashkenazim claimed that Sephardic yeshiva dropouts are wandering the streets on Shabbat in a manner unbefitting of the haredi population living in the neighborhood. According to neighborhood residents, pamphlets were distributed in synagogue on Shabbat calling haredim to protest the phenomenon on Saturday night.
Danielle Moyal, a Sephardic resident of the neighborhood, said, "They planned on making provocations ahead of time, to rile things up and cause the police to come, so they would ultimately attack us. It is simply horrifying what is happening here. There are Ashkenazi haredi groups here who are trying to hurt us and our children in any possible way. They are violent, and they are supported by their leaders."
According to her, hundreds of haredim took to the streets, along with many curious bystanders. "They shouted and approached young boys sitting there. One of them shoved my 11-year-old daughter and kicked her. Usually, in previous clashes, they would get swallowed into the masses, but this time we managed to photograph one of them. We went to the police and filed a complaint. We expect the police to take action against their leaders because they incite this whole phenomenon."
The neighborhood is mainly populated by members of the Belz and Ger Hassidic sects. One of them told Ynet what they are protesting: "Much to our chagrin, there are many young Sephardic boys in the neighborhood who dropped out of the yeshiva and have become rebellious.
"They harass our daughters as they pass through the streets. Some of them also smoke on Shabbat in the neighborhood, and are not fit to live here. Denomination-based tension has been created because of them since they behave inappropriately. They idly sit in the streets."
The disagreements came to a head Saturday night as hundreds of haredim took to the streets as the Ashkenazi residents called for the Sephardic youth to leave. The situation quickly escalated into a physical confrontation.
Sephardic residents of the neighborhood said they feel threatened. "If law enforcement authorities do not wake up, one day this will end in a disaster," said one of the Sephardic residents.
Moshe Greenbaum, one of the prominent neighborhood activists, said that the main problem in the neighborhood is the fact that the said youth do not have any framework in the afternoon. "These young men sit in the streets, while some of them make provocations. This is a small minority for whom a solution must be found. I, myself, am trying to help them in any way possible. They need to go and learn a profession."
Greenbaum said he did not know who distributed the fliers in the neighborhood. "This is a neighborhood where everyone lives together harmoniously, both Sephardim and Ashkenazim. A small minority is provoking. I, myself, was threatened by one of the youths, who told me, 'You won't walk on your feet in the quarter.' Tonight, I tried the police to calm everyone down. I hope the haredim who were arrested will be released and that peace and quiet will return to the quarter."