Thirteen ultra-Orthodox demonstrators were arrested Thursday as police dispersed a protest that brought a major highway in central Israel to a standstill.
Traffic on Route 4 was stopped in both directions by some 600 ultra-Orthodox men who protested outside the Hadarim Prison against the incarceration of a member of their community.
Police said 13 were detained.
The demonstrators were rallying over a Haredi detainee who allegedly assaulted a police officer who came to arrest him for “inciting” against the draft of ultra-Orthodox people into the Israel Defense Forces, according to the Ynet news website.
Israel’s highways were flooded with vacation traffic as the country celebrates the week-long Passover festival that began on Monday night. As the protesters blocked Route 4, police asked drivers to find alternative routes until the highway could be cleared. Police reopened the highway after a delay of about an hour.
On April 4, some 150 ultra-Orthodox demonstrators tried to block the Geha Junction — one of the main interchanges in central Israel — to protest the jailing of yeshiva student Yisrael Meir Toledano for 56 days in a military prison.
His arrest several weeks ago for dodging the draft into the IDF sparked sporadic protests nationwide, many of which turned violent. Several police officers were injured and dozens of demonstrators arrested in the ensuing demonstrations. Toledano’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, has encouraged the protests against his arrest.
On Monday night, during a Jerusalem rally in support of Toledano and another draft dodger — held at the end of a short furlough granted to them for the first night of Passover — the pair were driven back to military prison in a white stretch limousine.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews, known as Haredim, represent about 10 percent of the Israeli population and live in compliance with a strict interpretation of Jewish laws.
The ultra-Orthodox are exempt from military service when studying in yeshiva religious schools. The issue is controversial with secular Israelis, and attempts have been made to do away with the exemption.
Regardless, they must register at the recruitment office, but some — inspired by rabbis hostile to any cooperation with the Israeli authorities — refuse to even go to the office and are liable for arrest.