Police: Haredim all look the same

After police mark haredi demonstrators with numbers, spokeswoman explains decision: 'They all look the same, we had no choice.'

David Rosenberg ,

Haredi Jews at Meron
Haredi Jews at Meron

A day after it was revealed that Israeli police had marked haredi protesters with numbers on their hands for identification purposes, the police department came under fire again Monday when a spokeswoman defended the decision, claiming that all haredim “look the same”.

On Sunday, 27 haredi demonstrators affiliated with the Yerushalmi Faction (Jerusalem Faction) anti-draft movement were released on bail after they agreed to identify themselves. The 27 detainees, who were among the 120 people arrested Thursday evening during anti-draft protests organized by the Yerushalmi Faction, had initially refused to identify themselves, and were instead identified with numbers, which officers marked on their hands.

The decision to label the 27 detainees on their arms and hands drew criticism, those police were quick to defend the move, saying officers were left with few options given the detainees’ refusal to identify themselves.

On Monday, police spokeswoman Merav Lapidot appeared on Channel 2 to justify the labels, but drew additional criticism when she argued that such alternative identification procedures were necessary when dealing with haredi detainees, claiming that haredi Jews “all look the same”.

“You have to identify the people some way or another in order to bring them to a court,” said Lapidot.

“Some people can be identified by their phones, how they look, their clothes – any way that a person can be identified and singled out in order to bring him in to court.”

“The law requires people to identify themselves to officers. It’s not optional, and it’s not up to you to decide – you have to identify yourself… the demonstrators broke the law in that regard. Marking them was necessary. There’s no way to identify them. They’re all dressed the same way, they all look the same. You have 20 – almost 30 – detainees who refused to identify themselves. How do you deal with that and bring them before a court?”

When pressed to explain why officers did not simply use photographs to identify the detainees, Lapidot demurred, suggesting that it was unfair to judge the officers’ actions after the fact.

The Yerushalmi Faction, led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, has denounced not only the induction of haredi yeshiva students into the army, but has called upon members not to cooperate with IDF draft offices in any way, even for the purposes of obtaining draft deferments offered to full-time yeshiva students.

Rabbis Chaim Kanievsky and Yigal Rosen slammed the Yerushalmi Faction, calling them ‘reckless fools’.

Rabbi Rosen, Dean of the Ohr Yisrael Yeshiva, even compared the group to the ISIS terror organization and Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

““This is all simply venomous and deadly propaganda; see where it has taken us, all this violence. People who are supposed to be Torah students – all this evil, it reminds me of ISIS.”