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Knesset discusses assaults on Israeli national symbols

JERUSALEM, May 26 (JTA) — The Knesset discussed this week recent incidents of fervently Orthodox violence against national symbols. A number of Knesset members introduced urgent calls for the discussion after several instances were reported among fervently Orthodox, or haredi, communities over the weekend when the Israeli flag was burned at bonfires that are traditional on the Lag B’Omer holiday. Jerusalem police launched an investigation after the Israeli daily Ma’ariv published a photograph on its front page of a haredi youth burning an Israeli flag during celebrations in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood. A spokesman for the firefighters association said similar flag-burning incidents also took place in the haredi neighborhoods of Bnei Brak. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he viewed the matter as very grave, and Knesset speaker Dan Tichon also condemned flag burning, which is an offense that can carry a one-year prison conviction. Acting Jerusalem Mayor Haim Miller, of the fervently Orthodox Agudat Yisrael Party, maintained that photographers had encouraged the youth in Mea Shearim to burn the flag. He said the photographers were trying to defame the community. The incident comes after haredi protesters threw rocks at police who were standing at attention on Israel’s Memorial Day earlier this month for those who had fallen in defense of Israel.

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