A fracas erupted Tuesday between tourists at a memorial for the victims of a military helicopter accident near the Galilee town of Shear Yashuv, after several haredim were caught bathing in the monument.
The haredi tourists apparently stripped down to their bathing suits and decided to go for a swim in the memorial fountain, which was dedicated to 73 IDF soldiers who died when two military helicopters collided in the skies over Shear Yashuv in 1997.
A resident of the town who witnessed the incident told Israel Hayom: "These haredim knew very well that the site was a memorial for the disaster that happened 16 years ago. Some tourists passed by and reminded them that they were swimming at a memorial site for soldiers, and [the haredim] responded that they were aware and undisturbed by that.
"[The non-haredi tourists] told [the haredim] that it wasn't very respectful to bathe half-naked at a place meant to memorialize soldiers, but that didn't make much of an impression. At that point, several residents from the nearby town also started showing up, and asked [the haredim] to leave if they wouldn't respect the victims. Instead of recognizing our pain, their response was: 'When an Indian person wants to mark a memorial he lights a candle and prays Psalms. Memorials constitute idolatry.'"
In a written statement, the Defense Ministry condemned what it called a "desecration of the memorial," expressing "disgust and shock" at images circulating of tourists swimming in the fountain.
"We expect all of Israel's citizens to respect memorial sites and the memory of the fallen, and stress that the desecration of a memorial constitutes a violation of the law," the statement concluded.