Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2006 16:40:19 +0200
What happened at the small area near the Western Wall known as the "Kotel
Hakatan" this Rosh HaShanah, the second day of the Jewish New Year
must be viewed with great severity, because of the precedent that it portends.
While the Jerusalem police spokesman told the media that the police arrested
a 20 year old resident of Jerusalem's Old City, Eliahu Kleinman, for sounding
the Shofar "in order to create a provocation among the Arab residents
in the Old City of Jerusalem", the people who were present during
Morning prayers while Eliahu was arrested tell a different story.
Hedy Kleinman, Eliahu's mother, who came on Aliya from Toronto in 1978,
was in the women's section of the prayers, and watched when a Druze member
of the Israel Border Police who are stationed in the Old City, motioned
to her son to stop blowing the shofar during the Musaf section of the
Near Year prayer because it bothered the Arabs in the area. Although the
custom was indeed to blow the Shofar during the Musaf service, the policeman
screamed that it "this was forbidden because it bothers the Arabs".
People present at the prayers heard the officer send a radio message
to his superiors that "these people re in the middle of prayers and
that he could not do anything about the young man who was blowing the
The answer that the policeman got from on his walker-talkee from his
Jewish police commander, Guy Gilboa, was to "arrest the shofar blower
immediately, even if he is in the middle of prayer".
Two Druze officers, with name tags "Aswan" and "Jamil".
arrived on the scene, and signaled Eliahu to stop blowing the shofar and
to come with them to the JerusalemOld City Police station.
Since Eliahu was in the midst of prayer with his feet together, as is
the custom,. Eliahu would not and could not respond. Eliahu blew the shofar
once again, since it is the Sephardic custom to blow the shofar during
the Amidah silent prayer.
After he blew the shofar, Aswan and Jamil proceeded to drag Eliahu to
the police station despite the fact that he was in the midst of prayer,
At the Jerusalem Old City police station, police commander Gilboa informed
Eliahu that he would be charged with disobeying and attacking a police
officer and resisting arrest.
Over the past week, as the veracity of the story has come out, the Jerusalem
police have stuck to their story that they arrested the Eliahu for blowing
the shofar after the "kotel hakatan" after prayers, in order
to bother the Arabs.
While the police asked the court for a restraining order to prevent Eliahu
from going anywhere near the "kotel hakatan" for the next 15
days, his lawyer, Daniel Rubin, appealed that order at the Jerusalem District
Court and the police restraining order was cancelled. However, the police
informed the court that they would press charges against Eliahu for resisting
Israel Resource News Agency asked the police if they would apologize
for arresting a man during prayer The answer received was "no".
The precedent has been created- that the Israeli police can make an arbitrary
decision to disrupt prayers of Jews on the holiest days of the year.
The question remains: will organizations that are traditionally involved
in defending religious rights get involved and demand that the Israeli
police never violate religious rights of Jews never do any such a thing
in the future?
Not one human rights or civil liberties organization spoke with Eliahu
nor with the people whose prayers were disrupted while their religious
rights were violated.
The question is why.
David Bedein is the bureau chief of Israel Resource News Agency,