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Israel Society & Culture: Israeli Law Enforcement

In common with police forces around the world, the task of Israel’s police is to maintain the quality of life by fighting crime, assisting the authorities in carrying out the law and enforcing traffic regulations, as well as providing guidance on preventive measures for the safety and protection of the population.

The police’s principal mobile task force, the Border Guard, deals with internal security problems and includes a special anti-terrorist unit. The frequency and threat of terrorist incidents led concerned citizens to request active participation in the protection of their communities. Thus, a volunteer civil guard was established (1974) to maintain neighborhood security units, including command centers, armed patrols, and training programs.

In response to violent protests in East Jerusalem following Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli police force announced on October 21, 2014, that a special unit was being formed specifically to deal with protests and civil unrest in Jerusalem. The unit will be tasked with tackling the vandalism and riots that occurred in Jerusalem during 2014, which left 40% of Israel’s light-rail trains damaged as well as the Temple Mount. 

The Israeli police force has a tumultuous relationship with the local Ethiopian community and has often come under fire for their handling of incidents involving Ethiopian individuals. Over 1,000 Ethiopian Israelis staged a protest march in Jerusalem condemning police violence towards Ethiopians on April 30, 2015. As the initial protest went on violent clashes broke out, leading to the hospitalization of two officers and seven protestors, and the arrest of two Ethiopian protestors. The protests began after a video was released of two Israeli police officers violently beating an Ethiopian man, supposedly because the police were clearing the area due to suspicious activity and he refused to leave. Protests continued through the weekend of May 2, and over 40 protestors were arrested for instigating violence against the police. Protests took over Rabin square, and police had to use tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd in certain instances. To view a video of these protests, click here. In a 2014 incident, a young Ethiopian man was tased and beaten unconscious by officers who suspected him of breaking into a home. The police took him to the local station and called his family but gave him little medical attention, and he died months later in what was ruled a suicide.

The Israeli police force welcomed its first Muslim-Arab deputy police commissioner in February 2016. Jamal Hakroush, who had served as the Deputy Chief Officer of the Coastal Police District, was appointed to his new position by Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Hakroush will head a new division within the Israeli police force, tasked with promoting law enforcement in Israel’s Arab sector, and recruiting fellow Muslims and/or Arabs to join the force.

Master Sergeant Alex Pekerman became the first ever female bomb-disposal expert in Jerusalem’s police force in April 2016. Her father was an explosives disposal officer as well, and she was promoted to the position after serving on the police force for only 6 months.

A record number of female recruits joined the Border Police in 2021 prompting the police to order the creation of two new companies including one with a majority of female on  officers.

Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Adiv Sterman, “Police to establish unit to combat Jerusalem riots,” Times of Israel, (October 21, 2014).
Nir Hasson, “Protesters, police clash at Ethiopian Israeli demo against police brutality,” Haaretz, (May 1, 2015).
Shirley Seidler, “Dozens injured in Ethiopian-Israeli protests against police brutality in Tel Aviv,” Haaretz , (May 4, 2015).
Itzik Saban, “Israel Police names first Muslim deputy commissioner,” Israel Hayom, (February 12, 2016).
Roi Yanovsky, “Jerusalem’s first female bomb disposal expert follows father’s footsteps,” YNet News, (April 13, 2016).
Itsik Saban, “Record number of female recruits will soon be protecting Israel’s borders,” Israel Hayom, (August 5, 2021).