The following is the testimony of Rabbi Elyahu Blatt, a member of the religious community of Jerusalem, regarding the brutality of the Israeli police during the days of August 28-30, 2009.
On Friday night, August 28, just as in the previous weeks, we went out, following the ruling of the rabbis of the Eidah Chareidis community, to protest against the parking lot, next to the religious neighborhood in Jerusalem, which was recently established by the mayor to attract Sabbath violators to the area.
A large crowd of protestors was there — bigger than in previous weeks. Later in the evening, after most people had already gone home, only a small group of protestors was left. I heard this story from someone who was there. One of this small group was a young man named Rabbi Koppel Schwartz, a member of the Toldos Ahron Hasidic group.
He sat down at the entrance to the parking lot, and when a driver wanted to enter, he blocked its path. A police officer was standing there, and told the driver to continue driving. The driver said, “I can’t, there’s somebody lying there.” The police officer named Alan Weinstein said, “I order you to drive!” But the driver was still afraid. Then the police officer gave a slap with his stick, and the driver drove, wounding the young man under the car in many parts of his body. The driver, after committing such an act, was obviously very shaken up, and he stopped his car, as if to show he was sorry for what he did, or so that it shouldn’t seem like he was a hit and run driver. But the police officer ordered him to go away, and he obeyed. Subsequently the police claimed they were looking for him.
Religious Jews attacked at entrance to parking lot
On Sunday this incident was publicized [Hamevaser Sep 1, 2009 A newspaper published by Menacem Porush, an Israeli Member of Parliament ], and when the prime minister and his cabinet heard of it, they justified the conduct of this police officer. Prime Minister Netanyahu said on radio: “I give my full support to the Police”. The Minister of the Police said: “Well, if you call the police 'Nazis,' that is what happens.”
The conduct of the police officer was almost what we would expect from this kind of police force, but what was more shocking to us was the political leaders’ reaction. When you release statements like these, you are in effect saying that any religious Jew is a legitimate target for another such brutal crime.
And such a crime did indeed again take place less than 48 hours after the first one. On Sunday evening, the religious community protested in the street against the holding of several of its members in jail, and against the brutal act of driving over Rabbi Schwartz. In the middle of the demonstration, a new issue arose. A Jew was murdered in a nearby building, and the police wanted to take the victim’s body away to do an autopsy, which is strictly forbidden in Jewish law. Thousands of religious Jews came and blocked the doors of the house for five hours. The police had no way to get the body out. At about one o’clock in the morning, they began using tear gas.
They must have used a lot of it, because I was standing a few blocks away, and I felt I couldn’t breathe. We heard gunshots; they were probably shooting in the air.
tear gas was used
bullets were found
Pedestrian women and babies panicked and escaped in to a nearby synagogue. At this point the crowd dispersed, leaving only a few protestors who refused to surrender. The police grabbed the body, put it in their car, and tried to drive. But a young man named Shlomo Klein, a member of the Satmar Hasidic group, stood in front of the car and didn’t let it go. The police officer drove right over him. And then, as he was lying on the road, wounded in every part of his body, another police car drove over him and dragged him 20 or 30 feet, till the intersection known as Shabbos Square, and then left him lying there. All which was witnessed by hundreds of people.
A daughter and father, both religious jews, who were just
passing by the scuffle were attacked by the authorities.
A policeman's horse steps on a demonstrator