Israeli police arrest 320 over coronavirus breach at Jewish festival

Reuters

Posted at May 13 2020 03:01 PM

Israeli police arrest 320 over coronavirus breach at Jewish festival 1
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man files wood sticksonto a bonfire during celebrations for the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba-Omer in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions around the country May 11, 2020. REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun

JERUSALEM - Israeli police arrested 320 people at a Jewish bonfire festival celebrating an ancient sage, after worshipers rioted over coronavirus restrictions that denied them access to his tomb, officers said on Wednesday.

Though many leading rabbis have backed Israel's curbs on public assembly as a precaution against contagion, some ultra-Orthodox Jews have chafed at the disruption of religious rites.

A focus of the annual Lag Ba-Omer festival, which took place on Tuesday, is the tomb in northern Israel of 2nd-century mystic Shimon Bar Yochai, which usually draws thousands of worshipers for all-night prayers, dancing and singing around bonfires.

Police said that this time dozens of people tried to enter the tomb in violation of coronavirus restrictions, and that in the ensuing crackdown hundreds more scuffled with and threw objects at officers, leading to mass arrests.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mike Collett-White)