Aryeh Yerushalmi
Aryeh Yerushalmi Israel News Photo: (file)

Hareidi-religious yeshiva student Aryeh Yerushalmi stripped nearly naked in a supermarket in Tel Aviv on Sunday to protest the sale of hametz (bread and other leavened grain products) in the store during Passover. Yerushalmi, who did the same thing last year in a supermarket in Bat Yam, claims the law is on his side and dares the police to try and prosecute him.

Yerushalmi, who is 28 and lives in Bat Yam, arrived at the Tiv Taam supermarket in the Nahalat Binyamin neighborhood of Tel Aviv on Sunday. He proceeded to the bread section and began removing his clothing, leaving only a sock to cover his private parts. Several customers thought the scene was rather amusing, but the store manager and security guard asked the nudist to leave. Police, whom Yerushalmi claims he himself called, arrived on the scene and arrested Yerushalmi, after which he agreed to put his clothes back on.

As Yerushalmi said after last year’s incident, if hametz can be legally sold in a store during Passover, then he can lawfully disrobe there as well. As he explained, the 1986 Hametz Law forbids the sale of bread products in a “public” area on Passover. The law was never enforced until 2008, when then-Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski directed police to bring a case against four Jerusalem stores caught selling hametz during the holiday. In the ensuing court case, judge Tamar Ben-Tzaban ruled that the inside of a store does not constitute a public place.  Only the sale of hametz outside the store would be considered a violation of the law against selling hametz publicly, the judge stated.

Yerushalmi took on the mission of showing the fallacy of the judge’s argument, using the law banning a person from performing an indecent act in a public place. According to the judge's reasoning, "public" places do not include the inside of the supermarket - and therefore he should be allowed to disrobe there as well.

Last year, police released Yerushalmi without charging him. Yerushalmi claims that he wanted to go to court, but the police preferred not to give the case too much publicity.

This year, Yerushalmi was brought before the Tel Aviv district court. The police prosecutor explained to the presiding judge that the suspect had disrobed in public after which a civilian called the police to arrest him. Yerushalmi interjected and said, “The civilian who called was me. I wanted to limit my demonstration to a short period of time.” The judge asked Yerushalmi if he plans on repeating his performance again, to which Yerushalmi replied that he would “think about it,” after which the judge chose to place Yerushalmi under house arrest for a week.

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