Dizengoff Square on Yom Kippur
Dizengoff Square on Yom KippurTomer Neuberg/Flash 90

US officials responded for the first time today (Thursday) to the violent disruption of a Yom Kippur prayer service in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Square on Monday.

State Department officials told Israeli news site Ynet that the United States supports the right of worshipers to pray with a separation between men and women in a public space, as well as the right of protesters to gather for non-violent protests as long as both do not violate local law.

"The United States supports the right to freedom of assembly," an official statement said. "Non-violent demonstrations are a central part of any democratic society and we call on all parties to maintain order and avoid violence."

The statement added that the administration is concerned by the violence and the actions and statements of Israeli officials which the US government believes inflames tensions even further.

The statement comes a day after the Biden Administration announced the addition of Israel to the US Visa Waiver Program.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas presented the certificate of approval.

It is estimated that implementation of the process will take a few weeks, and that during November, Israelis will already be able to enter the US without needing to present a visa, as they have been required to do until now.

Registration for the US Border Control's ESTA system, which provides the visa exemption, includes a questionnaire (in English) in which the traveler is asked various questions. The exemption received is then valid for a period of two years.

Left-wing protestors violently disrupted the Yom Kippur prayers after the prayer service organizers attempted to circumvent a ban by the Tel Aviv municipality on the erection of a mehitza, a partition between men and women, at the site. Prayer services using a mehitza have been approved for Yom Kippur services at Dizengoff Square in previous years. This year, the municipality imposed a new condition that effectively banned Orthodox prayers at the site.

It is unusual for the US government to comment on an internal matter of another country such as the clashes at the prayer service.