What happened at the small area near the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem in an area 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 is 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 shofar”.
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 Jerusalem’s Old 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 haktan” for the next 15 days, his lawyer, Adv. 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 arrest.
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?