Police rescue IDF soldier from ultra-Orthodox mob
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Police rescue IDF soldier from ultra-Orthodox mob

Protesters hurl insults against religious troops and women during incident in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood

Police rescuing an ultra-Orthodox IDF soldier who was trapped in a bookstore by an angry mob of ultra-Orthodox protesters in Jerusalem on April 2, 2017. (Screen capture: Kikar Hashabat)
Police rescuing an ultra-Orthodox IDF soldier who was trapped in a bookstore by an angry mob of ultra-Orthodox protesters in Jerusalem on April 2, 2017. (Screen capture: Kikar Hashabat)

Police were called to rescue an ultra-Orthodox IDF soldier on Sunday who was trapped in a Jerusalem bookstore by an angry mob of ultra-Orthodox protesters.

The soldier was reportedly walking down the street in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim — a stronghold of the anti-Zionist community in Jerusalem — when he was accosted by youths calling him “hardak,” a derogatory term for ultra-Orthodox Jews who join the army and which sounds similar to the Hebrew word for insect.

According to the ultra-Orthodox news site Kikar HaShabbat, passersby helped to protect the soldier from the youths, bringing him into the bookstore and locking the door, before calling police.

After the police arrived, dozens of protesters crowded around the entrance to the store continued to hurl invective at the soldier and a female police officer, calling her “shiksa,” a disparaging Yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman.

Video of the incident also showed a hat being hurled at the female police officer.

According to the Hebrew-language Ynet news site, the ultra-Orthodox soldier declined to file a police complaint.

An ultra-Orthodox passerby told Kikar Hashabat that police need to do more combat the phenomenon of attacks by ultra-Orthodox protesters against members of the community in the army.

“The writing is on the wall in bright red. We need to take action before it is too late,” he said.

A firefighter takes down a large doll dressed as an ultra-Orthodox Jewish soldier hung in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, on March 13, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A firefighter takes down a large doll dressed as an ultra-Orthodox Jewish soldier hung in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, on March 13, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Last month, a number of effigies of ultra-Orthodox Jews dressed as soldiers were found hung from the neck in prominent places in Mea Shearim, which police denounced as incitement.

In addition to the recent incidents of incitement against ultra-Orthodox soldiers, there have also been widespread protests over the past few months by members of the community against Israel’s compulsory military service.

Earlier Sunday, the Committee to Save the World of Torah, which has been responsible for organizing many of the recent demonstrations, said in an announcement that it will hold a protest and block traffic in the area of Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv in order to bring the issue to the attention of “the whole world.”

Last week, thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters gathered in Jerusalem in the largest protest yet in a series of recent demonstrations over the arrest of members of the community for failing to show up to the Israel Defense Forces draft offices.

The event marked a change in tone following weeks of often violent — albeit much smaller — protests by young men, which included blocking traffic, burning garbage, and throwing rocks and objects at police.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest against Israeli army conscription, in Jerusalem, on March 28, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest against Israeli army conscription, in Jerusalem, on March 28, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

The event was organized by the supporters of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, the leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem, who have been protesting the draft for the past few weeks. In an unusual move, the Orthodox Council of Jerusalem — an anti-Zionist extreme faction opposed to any cooperation with the state — joined the protest. Rabbis from both groups spoke from the podium, preaching against the IDF.

Although the protest was largely peaceful, video published by Channel 2 showed demonstrators attacking and yelling slurs at a secular woman passing, before she was extracted by Border Police officers.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews represent about 10 percent of the Israeli population and live in compliance with a strict interpretation of Jewish laws.

Some of them view military service as a source of temptation to young adults to leave the closed world of prayer and religious study.

The ultra-Orthodox are exempt from military service when studying in yeshiva religious schools. However, 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 considered deserters.

AFP contributed to this report.

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