Beit Shemesh Mayor Aliza Bloch had to be rescued by Israel Police Tuesday night after hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters violently protested her appearance at the opening of an ultra-Orthodox school in the city.
The protesters threw rocks, smashing her car windows, in addition to throwing rocks and other objects at the school building while she was inside.
Bloch, who is herself religiously observant, was stuck in the building for about one hour while she waited for police to arrive.
After police arrived, the rioters began throwing stones at the police, hitting one officer in the head who required medical treatment.
Following the event, Bloch released a video statement saying that she recognized the rioters represented “a small group” of ultra-Orthodox society, and that the protests would not stop her from representing all members of her community.
“There was a group of fanatics, who didn't exactly like what we were doing, didn't exactly like the direction we were taking this city, demonstrating, shouting, I'll tell you the truth – it was very unpleasant," the mayor said.
"But deep down I said, 'We won't let this kind of behavior set our agenda, or affect us.' I know they represent a small group, the vast majority of our city wants a life together, wants quiet, and we must not be afraid, we must not let it affect what we do.”
Interior Minister Moshe Arbel from the Shas ultra-Orthodox party, called Bloch to encourage her.
“I spoke tonight with Beit Shemesh Mayor Dr. Aliza Bloch about the violent attack she experienced,” Arbel said.
“Violence is a sick evil that must be uprooted against every person and elected officials. I expect law enforcement agencies to act immediately to protect the safety of elected officials in local government from anyone who raises their hand on elected officials and public servants.”
National Unity party leader Benny Gantz also spoke out in support of Bloch.
“Aliza is an example of a public figure who serves all parts of society - religious, secular, and all Beit Shemesh residents as they are,” Gantz stated. “The extremists' behavior toward her is not only condemnable, it also endangers and harms Israeli solidarity.”
Beit Shemesh is a city of predominantly religious Jews, including a large ultra-Orthodox population.
Bloch has been pushing for several development projects meant to entice a broader population, including secular Israelis, to move to the city.
The protestors are believed to be from a radical ultra-Orthodox group called the Sikrikim, whose name comes from the Sicarii zealots who opposed the Roman occupation of Judea and Jerusalem in ancient times.
Sikrikim are reportedly an anti-Zionist group who believe the only legitimate Jewish government is a theocratic one established by the Messiah.
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