Clashes continue over IDF draft law for ultra-Orthodox

Protests against compulsory service in the Israeli army flared up again in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, with a number of arrests made.

By: World Israel News

An ultra-Orthodox group known as the Jerusalem Faction sent dozens of protestors to block streets in metropolitan areas in Israel on Monday, and some 20 men were arrested. In Jerusalem, they blocked Rashi Street opposite the IDF draft office for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Five people were arrested while the police cleared the street.

In B’nei Brak, a city not far from Tel Aviv, scores of men blocked major roads and junctions, bringing traffic to a halt even on Jabotinsky Street, the city’s main road. Video clips show police dragging men out of the road to allow traffic to pass. This was seemingly a more violent fracas than in Jerusalem, with Walla news reporting that some police were injured, with twelve protestors treated at the scene, and one taken to Ichilov Hospital for further medical care. Fifteen protestors were arrested on Monday, adding to the 28 people arrested in Bnei Brak on Sunday during demonstrations and confrontations with the police.

The impetus for this particular round of demonstrations is the Sunday sentencing in Jaffa’s Military Court of 11 religious students to up to 90 days in prison for their failure to come to a draft office to get their near-automatic exemption from IDF service. These sentences are more severe than such haredi draft objectors have received until now.

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In most haredi circles, when young men get their draft notices, they simply go to the conscription office and declare learning religious texts as their livelihood, permitting them in most scenarios to defer their army service. This permits them t0 continue learning in religious institutions for years securing an annual draft deferrals.

However, the Jerusalem Faction’s leader has told its followers that it is forbidden even to report to the IDF office to get the deferral. This group views the demands and principles of army service as a threat to the practice of Judaism, notwithstanding the significant presence of religious soldiers in the IDF and its overtures to accommodate religious observance. The men that refuse to report are by law considered draft dodgers and are liable for arrest when discovered.