Orthodox protesters in Israel burn bus as riots against COVID restrictions continue across the country


(JTA) — A mob of Orthodox Jews torched a bus in Israel amid ongoing riots protesting the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Police officers in other cities were also injured during riots in Orthodox neighborhoods, where COVID-19 rates have spiked but residents have objected to lockdown restrictions.

Sunday’s bus burning in Bnei Brak, a largely haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, city near Tel Aviv, came days after rioters there injured seven police officers in clashes last week. Police have sought to close haredi schools and other institutions, which has sparked a violent backlash from protesters.

The bus driver told an Israeli radio station that he was driving in Bnei Brak when he was blocked by protesters burning tires and trash cans. Protesters then surrounded and entered the bus, and one of them began punching and kicking the driver. He said he called the police but they took 15 minutes to arrive. Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical service, finally extricated the driver.

Protesters then set the bus on fire, which also damaged nearby apartment buildings.

“I don’t know how I’m alive,” said the driver, Eyal Tzipori, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Police officers have also been injured by haredi rioters in the cities of Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem.

On Monday, Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef condemned the rioters for “desecrating God’s name.” Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a top Ashkenazi haredi authority, is also expected to call for a stop to the riots.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that all the protesters from Sunday’s riots in Bnei Brak had been arrested, The Times of Israel reported, though there were only 13 arrests.

Also Monday, Netanyahu agreed to weaken a bill that would have doubled fines against those who violated the restrictions at the request of his haredi political allies, according to reports.

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