In Wake of Riots, Jerusalem Mayor Halts City Services to Two Haredi Enclaves

By Jonathan Lis and Yair Ettinger (Haaretz) and Haaretz Service

Published July 15, 2009.
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Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat ordered his municipality on Wednesday to halt all services to the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Geula and Mea Shearim. The move comes amid violent protests in those neighborhoods following the arrest of an ultra-Orthodox woman suspected of starving her 3-year-old son.

The services were halted in light of fear for the safety of municipality employees, as a Border Policeman policeman was hurt in one of the scuffles, when a rock was hurled at him by a protester. Fifteen rioters were arrested as the protests spread from Jerusalem to Beit Shemesh.

“The municipality regrets the inconvenience to residents of these neighborhoods who are not involved in the incidents occurring there at this time,” said a statement issued by the Jerusalem municipality spokesman. “We hope to renew the services soon.”

The protests over the arrest of the Jerusalem mother suspected of starving her toddler for months resumed Wednesday afternoon after having raged on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old woman, who is ultra-Orthodox and belongs to one of the most extreme sects in Jerusalem, was arrested for allegedly starving her three-year-old son over the course of two years, it was announced Tuesday. The boy, who weighs about seven kilograms, is hospitalized in serious condition.

Hundreds of people participated in the protest Wednesday by blocking traffic on Bar Ilan road by sitting in the middle of the road, while several others set fire to trash cans.

Flyers were disseminated in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods saying that the welfare authorities and the police were persecuting Haredi mothers with baseless allegations. Last week, 15 ultra-Orthodox students broke mirrors, computers and toys at the welfare offices in Jerusalem. They also tore out windows and plants. The door of one of the welfare offices was set on fire two days ago and it is believed to have been a retaliatory action over the mother’s arrest.

The woman is believed to be suffering from a condition called Munchausen by proxy syndrome. Sufferers of the syndrome pretend to be sick or intentionally inflicts illness on himself or others in order to get attention and compassion.

Doctors said Wednesday that the boy’s condition has consistently improved since the arrest of his mother. The arrest came after hidden cameras recorded the woman disconnecting her son’s feeding tube in his hospital room.


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