5 Haredim charged with breaking into Jerusalem light rail construction site

Five ultra-Orthodox extremists were charged Sunday with trespassing and rioting at a light rail construction site in Jerusalem earlier this month against a planned new route for the train.

Elazar Glick, 25; Yitzhak Ze’ev Koifman, 33; Avraham Zvi Lederman, 25; Shimon Shapira, 22, and Bezalel Lederman, 20, residents of Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, were charged with “crimes of rioting, trespassing to commit a crime, obstructing a police officer in the performance of office, violation of a lawful order and prohibited assembly,” according to prosecutors. said in a statement.

Prosecutors asked the court to keep the five men in custody until the end of the legal proceedings.

In two separate incidents a week ago, prosecutors allege the defendants broke into the light rail construction site on Jerusalem’s Bar Ilan Street, which sits at the center of several ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, sat in holes dug as part of the construction work and refused to move.

Shortly after, protesters were evicted and arrested after refusing calls from police to leave on their own. Prosecutors said three of those charged Sunday also violated orders to stay away from the site following previous arrests.

Haredi extremists have been staging protests for months against efforts to expand light rail in the capital, but they have intensified in recent weeks and turned violent in many cases. An extremist minority in the ultra-Orthodox community opposes the light rail passing through their neighborhoods, believing it will lead to unwanted intrusions from the outside world.

Rioting videos from early July showed haredi extremists disrupting work by sitting in holes dug as part of construction work and refusing to budge, with some seen praying.

Other videos show rioters throwing rocks at construction workers, climbing over and setting fire to tractors and other heavy machinery, and damaging infrastructure.

In a recent incident, participants attacked an Arab worker with an ax and a second employee had his leg broken and was shot by an air rifle, Channel 12 reported.

At the same time, haredi media reported on violent incidents directed by Arab workers against haredi protesters. According to a report by Haredi outlet Kikar Hashabbat on Thursday, a Haredi man was threatened and physically assaulted by two Arab security guards at the Bar Ilan Junction.

Construction work on Bar Ilan Street in Jerusalem was originally scheduled to take two years, but is expected to be delayed for up to a year due to ongoing disruptions.

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Jose P. Rogers