At least 18 held after ultra-Orthodox protest army draft
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At least 18 held after ultra-Orthodox protest army draft

Demonstrators throw rocks at police, light dumpsters on fire after community member is detained for evading IDF service

Ultra-Orthodox demonstrators during a protest against the jailing of Jewish seminary student who failed to comply with an army recruitment order, in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, February 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox demonstrators during a protest against the jailing of Jewish seminary student who failed to comply with an army recruitment order, in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, February 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police made dozens of new arrests overnight Tuesday-Wednesday as protests by ultra-Orthodox demonstrators against the military detention of a draft-dodging member of their community continued to rage across the country.

Eighteen people in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh were arrested for “disturbing the peace” during protests that included lighting dumpsters on fire to block traffic and throwing rocks at officers, police said in a statement.

Dozens more were arrested across the country, a spokesperson said.

Some 50 people had been arrested on Tuesday evening when demonstrators clashed with police while trying to block key roads and junctions in Jerusalem, Modiin, Beit Shemesh and Bnei Brak.

Many in the ultra-Orthodox community shun the mandatory military service that applies to most Israelis, and the community has historically enjoyed blanket exemptions in favor of religious seminary studies. But some in the ultra-Orthodox community refuse to even appear at the recruiting office to request such exemptions.

There have been regular demonstrations against the draft by the ultra-Orthodox — also known as Haredi — community. The 24-year-old who sparked Tuesday’s protests was arrested at a previous demonstration in Jerusalem at the beginning of the week and once in police detention it was discovered that he was a draft-dodger.

At the Bar-Ilan Junction in the capital Tuesday, dozens of protesters intermittently blocked the road and caused heavy traffic congestion in approach roads. Police arrested 15 people at that demonstration. Other protesters tried to block Shivtei Yisrael Street in Jerusalem and were dispersed by police.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters demonstrating against he jailing of Jewish seminary student who failed to comply with an army recruitment order, block a road in Jerusalem, February 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters demonstrating against the jailing of Jewish seminary student who failed to comply with an army recruitment order, block a road in Jerusalem, February 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

 

Also Tuesday, traffic along Route 4, a main artery in the Gush Dan region, was also disrupted after protesters blocked the Nitzanim Junction. Police were deployed to clear the demonstrators and prevent the road from being closed.

Ultra-Orthodox demonstrators also interfered with traffic on Route 443 at the Shilat Junction, near Modiin.

“Protest is a democratic right and the Israel Police will allow it, but disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace is a criminal offense,” police said in a statement.

The Hebrew-language Ynet news reported the organization behind the demonstrations, the Committee for Saving the Torah World, said in a statement that it would continue to protest against army service.

“The community of the God-fearing will stand like a bulwark and without compromise and absolutely refuse to cooperate with the regime plans to assimilate the Haredi public into Israeli society, and its licentious and heretical way of life.”

Reforms passed in the Knesset in 2014 that sought to do away with the exemptions and gradually increase ultra-Orthodox recruitment met fierce opposition from many in the religious community, who perceive the army as a threat to their way of life.

In late November, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Equal Service Law, dramatically rolling back 2014 reforms and scrapping collective penalties to be imposed if annual quotas for ultra-Orthodox draftees were not met.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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