Israeli police came under fire Sunday afternoon over their handling of a mass gathering in Jerusalem for the funeral of a haredi rabbi.
Thousands of mourners gathered at Eli HaCohen Street in the capital Sunday afternoon to join the funeral procession for Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik as the procession made its way towards the Har HaMenuchot cemetery, despite Israel’s ongoing nationwide lockdown and Health Ministry rules prohibiting mass gatherings.
Police did prevent some two dozen buses, mostly from Beit Shemesh, from reaching the funeral procession.
Blue and White chief, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, excoriated the police department for its ‘unequal’ enforcement of the lockdown.
“It looks like unequal enforcement: Millions of families and children are locked up at home and adhere to the rules, while thousands of haredim are crowded together at a funeral, most of them without masks.”
“We won’t agree to extend a fake, ineffective lockdown. Either everyone gets locked down or we up things up for everyone.”
Likud MK and coalition chairman Miki Zohar said the images of thousands gathering in Jerusalem were “troubling”.
“While the Jewish people are fighting against the infections, there is no place for mass gatherings of this kind – the reason [for the gathering] doesn’t matter. We must act with determination to increase enforcement against mass gatherings in every sector.”
Gideon Sa’ar, chairman of the New Hope party, lamented the failure of police to enforce the lockdown restrictions at the funeral.
“The photographs from Jerusalem prove that Netanyahu has given up on enforcing the law for political reasons. In my government that won’t happen. There will be one law for everyone and it will be enforced.”
The chairman of the Yisrael Beyteinu party, MK Avigdor Liberman, attacked Prime Minister Netanyahu and Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana.
"Now in Jerusalem: this is what selective enforcement looks like. Where is the prime minister? Where is the Internal Security Minister?" Liberman tweeted.
A police official responded to the criticism, saying that strict enforcement could lead to violent clashes between officers and mourners.
“People need to use their head. No one wants to see clashes which could lead to many people being injured.”
Rabbi Soloveitchik passed away Sunday morning at the age of 99, three months after he was diagnosed with the coronavirus and after having suffered a number of serious health problems, including a major infection last year, a fall at home, and undergoing a surgical procedure at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.