The incident occurred just a few days before last November's elections, elections which saw the Meretz party lose its Knesset representation, failing to clear the four-seat electoral threshold.
The man in question, 61 years of age, had approached a stand set up by members of Chabad-Lubavitch in the coastal city of Netanya where volunteers were encouraging passers-by to fulfill the mitzvah of laying tefillin. Instead of placing them on his head, however, the man seized the holy objects and rubbed them on his private parts.
Volunteers and onlookers screamed at him to stop. Meanwhile, police arrived and the man was arrested and taken for questioning on suspicion of having offended religious sensibilities, a criminal offense.
“He snatched the tefillin from [the volunteers], and you saw where he put them,” Yigal Rubin, an eye-witness, told Israel National News.
“When he first grabbed them, I was scared that he was going to throw them to the ground. Instead, you saw what he did. If the police hadn't arrived, I think the crowd would have killed him,” he added.
Shai Glick, director of the Betsalmo organization, criticized the decision of police to close the case rather than prosecute. "The entire country was shocked at the desecration of the tefillin," he said. "The person who did it has not expressed any remorse, not apologized. And yet, Israel Police has decided to close the case against him. Naturally, we will be appealing this decision. It is extremely unfortunate that the State of Israel, which is so sensitive to any slight to Islam or Christianity, is ignoring this attack to the religious sensibilities of millions of Jews here and in the rest of the world."