Lost haredi couple attacked by reform opponents in Tel Aviv

In a video, a protester can be heard shouting, “Take the engine out of the car so he'll bleed to death.”

Thousands of Israelis rally in Tel Aviv against the government's judicial reform program, Feb. 25, 2023. Photo by Gili Yaari/Flash90.
Thousands of Israelis rally in Tel Aviv against the government's judicial reform program, Feb. 25, 2023. Photo by Gili Yaari/Flash90.

An ultra-Orthodox couple driving through Tel Aviv on Sunday night found themselves trapped in an anti-judicial reform protest. Demonstrators attacked and wounded the husband.

The couple was returning from visiting their son in the city when they found their way blocked by protesters, they told the Kikar Hashabbat Hebrew-language haredi news site.

Video footage of the incident could be interpreted as showing that the couple was trying to run over protesters, something the couple flatly denies. They were only trying to exit from the crowd, they said.

“They started knocking on our car while screaming curses and tried to smash the window. My husband continued to drive. What’s interesting is that the footage released on social media does not show what happened before or after the lynching. I screamed from the first moment we entered the street. Everyone could see that we were a lost couple and not a danger, God forbid,” the wife told Kikar Hashabbat.

The husband, who was driving, stopped the car when he realized he couldn’t continue through the crowd and opened the door to talk to the protesters. Protesters responded by punching him. One jabbed him with a flag pole, gashing his cheek. The husband staggered back.

“He said to me, ‘I’m fainting. Take me to a nearby hospital. I can’t see,'” the wife said.

She begged protesters to help but they refused. In a video, a protester can be heard shouting, “Take the engine out of the car so he’ll bleed to death.” Finally, one young protester agreed to drive the couple in their car to the nearest hospital.

The wife said the gash required stitches and her husband would have a permanent scar. “He’s still undergoing tests. He’s in a very bad mental state. My 19-year-old daughter is shaking all the time. It shook up [our] home,” she said.

“It was a lynching in every respect,” she said. “We didn’t want to publicize it, but friends said we must. It’s an unprecedented event. It’s important that the police deal with the rioters and bring them to justice.”

A haredi man was stabbed in the face with a flagpole in the midst of judicial reform protests, according to a couple who saw the ordeal. Photo by Raphael Asulin.

The “outrageous thing” is that dozens of protesters filmed the incident with their cellphone cameras, but no one took their footage to the media, she said. “Everyone could see that we were a lost couple. My husband has a yarmulke on his head, a beard. I have a wig. You can’t mistake our appearance and our intentions and yet they chose to rain blows on him.”

The couple’s lawyer, Raphael Asulin, told Kikar Hashabbat: “The continuous incitement and the pointing of an accusing finger at the ultra-Orthodox community as if it is the one leading the people to dark times, something that is also expressed by ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ street theater shown in every corner of Israel and the world, causes people to commit unthinkable acts. My client’s entire fault is his ultra-Orthodox appearance, for which he was mercilessly attacked to the point of endangering his life.

“The police did nothing during the incident and even afterwards,” the attorney said, adding that his client found it necessary, despite his condition, to go to a police station to lodge a complaint.

The police said in a statement: “Every complaint received by the police in which suspicion is raised that a criminal offense was committed is examined and investigated in relation to the existing evidence, and so it is in this case.

“After an investigation and in accordance with the evidence, it was decided to close the case. Following new information received, the case will be reopened. We will continue to thoroughly investigate the case with the aim of arriving at the truth,” the police added.

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