The Nature and Parks Authority on Wednesday raided the Gan Chai Zoo in Elad, a largely Haredi city in central Israel, to collect wild animals that were kept in violation of regulations in a manner that harmed their welfare, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority reported.

There’s another version of the events, offered by the Elad city hall, which suggests the raid was brutish and hostile and would not have been dared against a secular municipality. We offer both versions here.

Nature and Parks Authority inspectors removing Elad Zoo animals. / Courtesy of the Nature and Parks Authority
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Inspectors from the Nature and Parks Authority, accompanied by police officers, arrived at Gan Chai in Elad after an ongoing dialogue over the past two years with the zoo management and the municipality, in order to improve the conditions for keeping wildlife in the zoo, the authority reported.

On Wednesday, birds of prey and porcupines were taken from the zoo for fear for their safety.

According to the authority’s press release, there was no physical contact between the inspectors of the Nature and Parks Authority and the mayor, Rabbi Israel Porush, despite attempts by the mayor and his staff to interfere with their work.

Nature and Parks Authority inspectors removing Elad Zoo animals / Courtesy of the Nature and Parks Authority

However, Mayor Porush and the Elad city hall staff offered a completely different account of Wednesday’s events to Radio Kol Chai (אלעד: ראש העיר מנע את פינוי גן החי). According to them, on Wednesday morning, the mayor was surprised to receive a call from the zoo staff, that the inspectors of the Nature and Parks Authority had arrived at the scene accompanied by police and began evacuating animals. Rabbi Porush rushed to the scene along with the municipal staff and heard from the inspectors that they possessed a court order to evacuate animals, as some of the defects which were cited by an authority inspection ticket had not been repaired.

Nature and Parks Authority inspectors removing Elad Zoo animals / Courtesy of the Nature and Parks Authority

The mayor requested a stay for legal consultation, to figure out what can be done. The police officers who were at the scene agreed with him and began to consult over the phone with police attorneys, asking for their help in delaying the evacuation. But the inspectors insisted on carrying out the mission for which they had come.

The mayor stood at the gates of the zoo and announced that until he finished the legal consultation, he would not allow the evacuation of the animals.

Nature and Parks Authority inspectors argue with Elad city officials / Courtesy of the Nature and Parks Authority

To the astonishment of everyone present, one of the inspectors began to confront the mayor and tried to push him out of the gate. The stunned mayor told him he was in charge of the place and he was working on getting a court injunction, but the inspector continued to confront the mayor. City employees who were at the scene wanted to protect the mayor and shouted at the inspector to stop his actions and he has no authority to touch anyone and the authority to evacuate is in the hands of the police officers who chose to wait for the mayor’s activities. In response the inspector pushed them, too, aggressively, threatening to arrest them.

One of the people on the scene told Radio Kol Chai: “You would not have dared to behave in this way to any other mayor (meaning a non-Haredi mayor – DI). It’s a shame that this is how you treat the Haredim.”

At one point, the inspector began to close the gate tightly on the mayor, who cried out in pain and begged the inspector to stop the violence against him. A municipal police representative who was at the scene came to the mayor’s aid and protected him.

The Rosh HaAyin police chief who was called to the scene calmed things down and asked the Nature and Parks Authority inspectors to reach an understanding that prevented the evacuation of all the zoo animals, with the exception of birds of prey and porcupines.\

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