Workers evacuated amid Jerusalem riots

The Jerusalem Post/July 16, 2009

Haredi rioting in Jerusalem over the arrest of a woman suspected of nearly starving her three-year-old son to death showed no sign of abating on Thursday afternoon, with police being forced to evacuate welfare workers from their office in the Geula neighborhood as haredim pelted the building with stones. No one was wounded and no damage was reported in the latest incidents.

Meanwhile, haredi protesters burned tires and hurled stones at passing vehicles on Rehov Shivtei Yisrael. No one was wounded, but a windscreen was smashed. In addition, 15 other demonstrators protested outside Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, where the boy is currently hospitalized.

On Rehov Dvora Hanevia, where protesters had earlier stoned the Education Ministry, haredim burned garbage bins, damaged road signs and tried to block the street. They were dispersed by police.

Ten people were lightly wounded as the rioting resumed on Thursday morning.

Most of those wounded were municipality employees, one of them a sanitation worker who was struck in the face, head and shoulder with stones near Rehov Bar Ilan. He told police he was attacked when haredim noticed his uniform. He was evacuated to Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital for treatment.

The fiercest rioting erupted in the Geula and Mea She'arim neighborhoods.

Dozens of haredim pelted police with stones on Shmuel Hanavi and Yehezkel streets, and rioters also clashed with security forces on Rehov Hayei Adam and burned garbage bins.

Meanwhile, the Israel Electric Company said its workers would not carry out repairs in the neighborhoods out of concern for their safety.

Also Thursday morning, the Eshkol Tunnel and Rehov Bar Ilan were closed to traffic due to a garbage bin being thrown into the middle of the street.

On Wednesday the fierce rioting prompted Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to order the closure of municipality offices in Mea She'arim and Geula. Barkat decided to withhold municipal services until workers no longer faced a safety threat. Earlier this week, two municipal welfare offices in the area were targeted by haredi assailants in back-to-back attacks.

The city said Wednesday that the offices would reopen as soon as workers were no longer facing "life-threatening" danger, and expressed regret over the inconvenience caused to neighborhood residents not involved in the violence.

The city added that the two days of rioting had caused hundreds of thousands of shekels in damage, including to two municipal vehicles and 50 garbage bins.

The suspected child abuser apparently suffers from Munchausen's-by-proxy, a psychiatric disorder that entails abusing someone, typically a child, to draw attention to or sympathy for oneself. She is suspected of severely abusing her child for two years, until he weighed a mere 7 kilograms. She has not been cooperating with police investigators.

The woman's London-born husband, a 30-year-old yeshiva student, said he was unaware of any abuse on the part of his wife, a Jerusalem native.

The woman's family claims the child has cancer and that his skeletal appearance is due to chemotherapy treatments, a claim vehemently denied by doctors, who have said that since the mother's arrest, the child's condition has improved and that he has begun to put on weight.

Dudi Zilbershlag, the family's media adviser, told Army Radio on Thursday morning that they had medical documents proving their claim and would reveal them in a matter of hours.

Meanwhile, the woman's attorneys requested that she be released from prison and placed under house arrest for health reasons, citing her advanced pregnancy.

Prosecutors responded that they would only consider this after a psychiatric evaluation of the woman is conducted, a move the defense team has so far opposed.

State officials said the woman may be a danger to her other children, and thus must be evaluated before house arrest is considered.

Dr. Yair Birnbaum, deputy director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization, said that the boy had gained 20 percent of his weight since his mother's arrest, nearly two weeks ago.

"Physically, he is on the right track," said Birnbaum.

The Hadassah administrator said the boy was likely to recover physically with good care, but it was not certain what his traumatic experience would do to him mentally and psychologically. He is being fed orally and by gastric tubes, enabling him to gain 1.7 kilos since entering Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem.

Birnbaum said on Wednesday that the boy had learned how to walk but that the deprivation of food at home made it difficult for him to move beyond lying in bed.

Birnbaum added that hassidim from the Toldot Aharon sect, to which the family belongs, threatened the hospital saying that they would persuade others not to give birth or get other medical care at Hadassah and would demonstrate en masse in the hospital. The hassidic community has claimed the woman is not guilty of abuse and objected to her arrest.

On Wednesday night, Channel 1 reported that the hospital boosted security around the boy's room for fear that members of the community might kidnap him.

Meanwhile, police estimated that the rioting over the woman's arrest, alongside the weekly protests against the opening of the Carta parking lot on Saturdays, would intensify this weekend, but Jerusalem Police Commander Aharon Franco said he hoped calm could soon be restored to the capital.

"We are prepared in huge numbers to deal with any rioters," he said. "There is an entire population that is suffering because of a handful of people making trouble."

On Wednesday night, rioting spread from Jerusalem to Beit Shemesh where some 100 protesters hurled rocks at police, while fierce protests in Jerusalem's Geula and Mea She'arim neighborhoods resumed, snarling traffic on main city thoroughfares.

Some 26 people who participated in the renewed demonstrations were arrested.

Etgar Lefkovitz and Alisa Ungar-Sargon contributed to this report.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.