The scene gets complicated in Israel… the ultra-Orthodox and Netanyahu’s opponents are unanimous to bring down the government

The second closure began in Israel to combat the outbreak of the Coronavirus, amid a tense atmosphere and an increasing feeling of distrust in the leadership and among the various sectors of society.

This made it more difficult for the police to enforce the restrictions, especially after part of the anger was directed at them.

During the decisions on the closure arrangements, the issue of the regular protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the issue of prayer gatherings during the Jewish holidays were treated as one thing.

Both the protesters and ultra-Orthodox Jews accuse the authorities of enforcing rules that discriminate against them. 

Each side is monitoring developments to ensure that the other side is not granted freedoms that are not granted to it.

Synagogues were closed during Jewish holidays, with the exception of Yom Kippur, and worshipers were only allowed to pray in the open air and in groups of no more than 20 people, provided they do not move more than a kilometer from their homes.

The same restrictions have been applied to the protests, which have gone out every Saturday since June and have been attended by thousands in front of Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence. 

And after being prevented from traveling long distances under the rules of the second closure, dozens of demonstrators gathered in separate parts of Israel instead.

Protesters accuse Netanyahu of imposing restrictions to curb protests and advance his political interests, while he is on trial on corruption charges.

Both protesters and ultra-Orthodox circulated videos of the police pulling and pushing citizens, one of which showed a policeman beating a religious youth in the face, and another throwing a teenager with a bucket.

Ultra-Orthodox journalist Yishai Cohen shared videos showing police use of force against young men.

He accused the police of “losing control of their actions,” and he believed that the violence used by the police against members of his community was more than twice what they used with protesters.

Several footage has also appeared that depict religious militants using violence with the security forces, a frequent phenomenon among factions that prefer to follow their religious leaders rather than the official authorities. 

Videos showed militants throwing stones, fireworks and metal objects at security forces and insulting them, including describing them as “Nazis”.

Brigadier General Sejal Bar-Zvi, the leader of the Local Communities Police Department, denied, in a statement to the German news agency (dpa), the excessive use of force, and stressed that the police only use it as a “last resort”.

Bar-Zvi said that the bucket that the teenager was tossed came after several young men threw big stones at the police, but she acknowledged that it should not have happened.

Bar-Zvi noted that while there are many who abide by the rules, there are some who oppose the lockdown.

Bar-Zvi considered that, in contrast to the media’s portrayal of the religiously ultra-Orthodox sector, “most rabbis understand the seriousness” of the Coronavirus, but there are some rabbis who refuse to cooperate with the authorities.

Pictures of ultra-Orthodox mass events circulated, angering large sections of the population. 

According to Ronnie Gamzo, who has been appointed responsible for the Coronavirus in Israel, 40% of all new infections with the Coronavirus during the past days came in ultra-Orthodox communities.

At the same time, some accuse the police of being gentle with members of this sector and turning a blind eye to what they are doing. 

Haaretz newspaper recently reported that the police had concluded agreements with militant rabbis in Jerusalem to allow them to organize mass prayers, provided they were not photographed, and the police denied the report.

The new restrictions made it harder for the police to handle the protests, as the police had to deal with dozens of small protests across Israel instead of one large demonstration.

Anti-Netanyahu protests were renewed last night, and the police arrested four protesters in Tel Aviv and four in Jerusalem, and filed violations of dozens of people for disturbing public order or violating the Ministry of Health’s instructions.

Police said that rioters assaulted their members and threw objects at them, wounding some of them.

Netanyahu’s Likud party described these demonstrations as “left-wing,” and considered that “they cannot obscure the fact that the prime minister is successfully leading the closure, which led to a decline in Coronavirus cases and saved the lives of Israeli citizens,” according to the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation.

On the other hand, masses of ultra-Orthodox Jews organized group parties on the occasion of the “Feast of Torah Joy” last night, in violation of Covid-19’s instructions. 

The police worked to disperse these gatherings and issue violations for those participating in them.

Opponents, including Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Hulday, accused the police of using them as a “political tool”.

“Suddenly someone gives an order – I saw that – to the undercover policemen in the crowd to start pulling people away,” Holday told Israel’s Channel 12 news.

Bar-Zvi responded by saying, “We do not take orders from the political elites, we implement the government’s decision”.

Bar-Zvi pointed out that the police are sometimes subjected to a set of insults by citizens, and stressed: “We need to fight the pandemic, not each other”.