A group of Jewish men were arrested on Monday following a dispute over an illegal tunnel secretly dug into the side of a historic synagogue in Brooklyn, New York.
At the time of the incident, a brawl ensued between police and the men who created the passageway and desired it to remain.
Rabbi Motti Seligson, a spokesperson for Lubavitch world headquarters, located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, called those who tried to create the tunnel a “group of extremist students.”
As reported by The Guardian, he noted that the students had “secretly broken through the walls of the vacant building behind the headquarters, creating an underground passage beneath a row of office buildings and lecture halls that eventually connected to the synagogue.”
Although a construction crew came in on Monday to fix the damaged walls, they were met with protests from the students who had created the tunnel.
“Those efforts were disrupted by the extremists who broke through the wall to the synagogue, vandalizing the sanctuary, to preserve their unauthorized access,” Seligson said.
According to the Associated Press, the students claimed that the underground tunnel was part of an “expansion” plan by the former head of the Chabad movement, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who led Chabad-Lubavitch for over four decades before passing away in 1994.
“That’s what the rabbi wants, that’s what everybody wants,” said Brooklyn resident Zalmy Grossman, 21. He added that the students started the tunnel project late last year to connect the synagogue with “the whole empty space” behind it.
Meanwhile, Chabad leaders refused to comment when they discovered the underground connection. However, several worshippers said talks of the tunnel’s existence had been ongoing in recent weeks.
The protest occurred on Monday when a cement truck arrived to seal the opening. Students in favor of the tunnel organized a protest and ripped off the wooden siding of the synagogue.
Witnesses say when police arrived that afternoon, they urged the students to leave the tunnel entrance. However, the students refused, prompting officers to cover the area with a white curtain and went into the tunnel with zip ties to detain the protesters.
“When they took the first person out with zip ties, that’s when the outburst happened,” Baruch Dahan, a 21-year-old studying at the synagogue who filmed the dispute, said. “Almost everyone was against what they did, but as soon as people saw the handcuffs, there was confusion and pushing.”
About nine people between the ages of 19 and 22 were arrested on charges that included criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and obstruction of governmental administration, according to police. Meanwhile, another three were given summonses for disorderly conduct.
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.
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