Israel Hayom via JNS
By Hanan Greenwood
Police and the bride's family offered contrasting versions of events, with officers saying they were attacked as they shut down the celebrations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday requested a review of a violent affray that broke out in a Jerusalem suburb after police shut down a wedding in Jerusalem due to violations of the COVID-19 lockdown currently in effect.
The wedding, which was held in a private home in the Jerusalem suburb of Givat Ze’ev, was reported to police by neighbors.
Video published to social media showed police fighting with guests and family as people screamed and cried, with one man being punched after being knocked to the floor. The bride’s brother was then escorted out of the house in handcuffs, his face bloodied.
“[Public Security Minister Amir] Ohana promised a thorough and swift inquiry into the matter, and to report the findings to the public as soon as possible,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
Ohana wrote on Twitter that he had watched the images of the incident “with great pain,” adding that “they are indeed serious and regrettable.” However, he said he would not pass judgment until “all of the details are before me.”
Police and the family of the bride offered contrasting versions of events, with officers saying they were attacked as they shut down the celebrations.
Police later published video footage from officers’ body cameras appearing to show police attempting to reason with the family before one person, apparently the brother of the bride, attacking the officers and instigating a brawl.
The footage also showed one man demanding they all be filmed while being led away in handcuffs.
Police said the homeowner was fined NIS 5,000 ($1,480), adding that several of the guests were inebriated. It was these individuals, the police said, that had assaulted the officers. After police left the scene, the wedding celebration reportedly continued.
Bat El Pollack, the mother of the bride, told Army Radio Thursday morning the entire family was still in shock following the incident.
“I didn’t sleep the whole night,” she said. “The entire family is reeling—I still can’t believe what happened.”
She added: “I saw with my own eyes how the policeman threw a glass bottle into my son’s face. And it was documented.”
An uncle of the groom said the officers “punched the bride’s brother in the face. Twenty patrol cars pulled up, along with Border Police. They brought half a battalion. The entire crowd of people was due to the neighbors. They started the wedding at 4 p.m. and divided the guests into groups until 10 at night. Everything was according to the rules. We were told to arrive between 7 and 8 p.m. The wedding itself took place in the afternoon. The crowd formed only after the police showed up en masse. A shame and a disgrace for the Israel Police.”
Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen firmly backed the officers in a statement and lamented that the police force was being criticized over the clash.
“Once again we are witness to an assault on police officers as they carry out their duties with regard to those who are trampling on the law. To my regret, instead of hearing strong condemnation against those who are violating regulations and harming the officers enforcing them, there are those who chose to attack the police and discredit them,” said Cohen.
The Israel Police said in a statement on Wednesday night that “completely distorted details about the incident” were being shared on social media “in an attempt to discredit the officers and to put the blame on their actions, instead of condemning those who trample on the violations, don’t listen to instructions from police and attack them.”
Israel’s National Coronavirus Project Coordinator Ronni Gamzu initially supported the police action, saying in a statement it was “a message” to those flouting restrictions. “This kind of enforcement will continue. We have no patience for mass gatherings and weddings,” he said.
“Anyone who organizes a wedding at this time should take into account that he is endangering life from every point of view—infection with coronavirus and also our need to break up the wedding no matter what,” he added.
After his response drew anger, however, Gamzu released another statement, apologizing for his remarks and saying he had received “inaccurate and misleading information” about the incident.
“I take back my initial response, and apologize for the manner of the response,” he said, adding, “The police have a difficult and complicated mission with the goal of maintaining restrictions and public health.”
“The police have a very tough job to do,” he told Army Radio on Thursday morning. “What’s a police officer supposed to do at an event like that? The right thing to do—would simply be not to get married,” he said.
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, condemned the incident, tweeting that “there is no reason in the world for police to break in with rifles in hand and harm people.”
Yori Yalon and Efrat Forsher contributed to this report.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Caption: The groom dances with family and friends during his wedding in Giv'at Ze'ev, near Jerusalem, on Oct. 14, 2020, after violence erupted when police attempted to shut down the celebrations for violating coronavirus lockdown regulations.
Photo by Flash90.