At least 28 arrested as hundreds protest jailing of draft dodger

Police arrested dozens amid protests by an extremist ultra-Orthodox faction against the IDF draft. These demonstrations, opposed by mainstream ultra-Orthodox leaders, have disrupted traffic in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and included verbal and physical assaults on police.

By: TPS and World Israel News

Hundreds of members of the radical Jerusalem Faction of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox sect blocked traffic and at least 28 were arrested Thursday in B’nei Brak – a haredi suburb of Tel Aviv – during continued protests in support of a yeshiva student who was jailed for failing to report to the IDF Draft Board.

Carrying signs reading, “I will not enlist in the army of destruction” and “stop trampling the Torah world” and with many calling police “Nazis,” protesters threw rocks at police on Jabotinsky Road and blocked traffic on Route 4, a major Tel Aviv-area highway.

Mainstream ultra-Orthodox groups have condemned the Faction’s protests.

Thursday’s protest was sparked by a Jaffa Military Court ruling the previous day according to which Meir Brodiansky, a yeshiva student arrested for draft dodging last week during a routine traffic stop near Ma’aleh Adumim, would not be released until after the upcoming Passover holiday, which begins the evening of March 30. Brodiansky was taken into custody after Israel Police discovered he was a deserter.

Dozens wounded, some hospitalized

United Hatzalah emergency medical volunteer first responders have treated at least 40 people or injuries sustained, including protesters as well as police officers and security forces. Many were taken to hospital.

“Due to the type and severity of the emergencies, our volunteers in the city were jumping from one incident to another throughout the protest,” said Ephraim Feldman, United Hatzalah’s B’nei Brak branch. “Our ambucycle and electric bicycle divisions proved their importance in our city during this event, as it was incredibly difficult to get to the patients by ambulance or car in the field due to the sheer amount of people at the event and due to the road closures.”

The protest followed similar scenes last week in Jerusalem when 500 yeshiva students blocked traffic at the entrance to the capital – the latest in a series of demonstrations in recent months pitting the Jerusalem Faction against police. They follow last September’s High Court ruling that the longstanding blanket exemption from military service for haredi students was unconstitutional because it undermined fundamental principles of democracy and equality.  The court gave the government a year to revisit the issue.

The current round of demonstrations also follows the death last month of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, the leader of the Jerusalem Faction and a vocal opponent of haredi participation in the IDF, both by enforced draft and by voluntary service.

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“The Israel Police will act decisively in any case where public order is violated. Protest is a democratic right, and the Israel Police will allow this to happen, but the violation of order and harm to public safety is a criminal offense,” a police spokesman said.