Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman took to Twitter to slam ultra-Orthodox rioters who attacked police on Tuesday in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood.
“While the best of our sons and daughters are risking their lives to defend the homeland, an extremist, violent and anti-Zionist group is attempting to prevent the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox Jews into the army,” he tweeted. “Shame.”
Liberman had traveled to the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem of the capital to pay a condolence visit to a healthcare activist who suffered the loss of a family member.
A few hours later police returned to the neighborhood and raided an offices of anti-draft activists. Ultra-Orthodox men and women clashed with police and three people were arrested, Channel 2 reported.
Recent months have seen a surge in sometimes violent action by extremist ultra-Orthodox elements who are vehemently opposed to mandatory army service. As defense minister, Liberman is seen as bearing responsibility for drafting ultra-Orthodox young men into the army.
Police said in a statement that while the minister was still inside apartment, ultra-Orthodox protesters began to gather outside the building. Liberman’s security detail called for police assistance and officers arrived to disperse the crowd and escort the minister’s entourage from the location.
As Liberman’s vehicles left the area the protesters clashed with police, pelting officers with stones and other objects. During the course of the altercation a stone hit an 8-year-old girl in the head as she stood at the side of the road. Police and local residents administered first aid to the girl until Magen David Adom paramedics arrived and took her to the hospital in good condition.
Police then dispersed the crowds, the statement said.
A spokesperson for Liberman played down the incident, saying there was nothing more than a few shouts as he left the building and that the minister had not been targeted by stone-throwers.
Actions against the draft have included mass protests by thousands of demonstrators in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Beit Shemesh, cities that have large ultra-Orthodox communities. Arrests of draft-dodgers have also been met with large protests.
Ultra-Orthodox Israelis, who for decades enjoyed an exemption from army service, oppose what they say is the IDF’s lax observance of Jewish laws. Recent attempts to cater to ultra-Orthodox recruits have been met with some success, but many ultra-Orthodox soldiers still face harassment, threats, and assault while on leave in Haredi neighborhoods.
Some segments of ultra-Orthodox society refuse to recognize the State of Israel and oppose Zionism, because of their belief that the establishment of a Jewish state should only come after the arrival of the messiah.