Police in riot gear descended in force upon the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Meah Shearim, Jerusalem at 3:30 AM on Sunday, May 12, 2019 in an effort to arrest those who attempted to remove an Israeli flag from a fire engine on the Israeli Independence Day.
As on every Israeli Independence Day, a protest march took place Thursday in Meah Shearim, the participants carrying anti-state and anti-Zionist signs. After the march, participants burned hundreds of Israeli flags. A fire truck entered the neighborhood, leading to a scuffle between fire fighters and some protesters as the latter climbed up on the truck to remove the Israeli flag flying on the truck.
The police searched houses for those involved, but were unsuccessful.
Night raids have been common practice by the Jerusalem police over the past months. In fact, many residents complain that the police often enter houses under arrest warrants based on flimsy or no evidence. They break down doors if their knock is not answered within a minute, hardly enough time for family members to wake up and come to the door.
Residents feel that these night raids are carried out by police officers with excessive violence, all to sow fear and create a deterrent to public protest among the residents of the Haredi neighborhoods.
In the vast majority of cases, the person arrested is found to be innocent and released the same day.
For example, on the night of March 4, 2019, police arrived at Rabbi Yaakov Davidovich’s house, broke down the door, arrested him and interrogated him on suspicion of participating in a demonstration, and then asked to be released under conditions in court. It should be noted that the police did not summon him for questioning before breaking into his home. They broke the door within a minute of knocking, not enough time for him to get out of bed and reach the door of his house.
On the night of March 24, 2019, police came to the house of Rabbi Shaya Rotman, broke the door, arrested him and interrogated him on suspicion of participating in the demonstrations. He was released that day in court.
That same night, a similar incident took place in the home of Rabbi Yisrael Rotman, but there the door was not broken because the members of the house woke up from the knocking and managed to open it before it was breached. The police officers who entered the house discovered that Rotman was not there, so they returned on April 3, 2019 and posted a summons to the interrogation. After the interrogation he was released.
That same night, police also arrested Yosef Kaddish Krishevsky, David Rotman, and Nathan Tubitz, a minor. All were released 24 hours later. In addition, the house of Moshe Yehuda Steinberger was broken into in search of his married son, who has not lived with him for several years.
On the night of April 8, 2019, at 4 AM, policemen arrived at the home of Matisyahu Bornstein. He opened the door of the house and was arrested on suspicion of assault. He was interrogated on suspicion of participating in a demonstration and was released after only two hours.
On the night of April 25, 2019, policemen entered the house of Moshe Tuvia Fisher (the door was open), arrested him and interrogated him on suspicion of an attack in Meah Shearim. He was released to house arrest in the Magistrate's Court. It should be noted that all of this was without prior investigation and despite the fact that in the past he cooperated with summonses for interrogations in other cases.
On the night of April 28, 2019, police again arrived at the home of the minor Nathan Tubitz, knocked on the door and there was no response. The police returned the next morning, April 29, 2019, and broke down the door of the house, but he was not there. All this, despite the fact that the police had already arranged for him to come for interrogation on that afternoon (April 29, 2019). He in fact did show up for the interrogation, after which he was released to house arrest.
The nature of the arrests and the rest of the activities described above, together with the fact that all the above individuals were found innocent, point to the conclusion that such night arrests are made for the purposes of deterrence and collective punishment, not to catch actual lawbreakers.