Thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters gathered in several locations throughout the country Wednesday to demonstrate against the arrest of a yeshiva student who declined to report to a military draft office and enlist for army service.
The protesters in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Atlit and Ashdod, many carrying banners bearing slogans against IDF service, called on authorities to release the yeshiva student at once.
Dozens of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators reportedly hurled stones at vehicles and set fire to trash cans near the Bar Ilan junction in Jerusalem, according to Kikar Hashabbat. A police force dispersed the protesters with water cannons. One demonstrator was arrested.
In Kiryat Gat, three protesters were arrested after they allegedly planned to set tires on fire and block a road in the area. Later, hundreds of demonstrators attempted to block highway 4 near Bnei Brak and Givat Shmuel. The road beneath the String Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem and a road into Ashdod were also briefly blocked.
Most of the protests had been cleared out by 9 p.m.
The rallies were organized by followers of Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, a staunch opponent of army service. Steinman has urged the ultra-Orthodox public to stop cooperating with any IDF demands, including the requirement to report to a draft office for a first evaluation.
According to the demonstrators, the yeshiva student was detained in his hometown of Elad on Sunday after failing to show his identification card to a police officer, Ynet reported. The student was reportedly drunk after coming home from a Purim party. While questioning the young ultra-Orthodox man, the police officer discovered that the yeshiva student had not reported to the IDF draft office as required. He was then transferred to an army base and was sentenced by a military judge to 10 days in detention.
Earlier this month, thousands of ultra-Orthodox gathered at the entrance to Jerusalem for a massive protest against plans to introduce compulsory military service to the Haredi community.
Carrying placards calling to rise up for the “Torah of Moshe” and declaring they would never submit to a Knesset bill that would dramatically increase IDF service among the ultra-Orthodox communities,some 300,000 people held a prayer rally against the legislation, which was approved by the Knesset last week.
The latest version of the draft bill has faced scathing criticism from ultra-Orthodox leaders over its inclusion of individual criminal sanctions against draft-dodgers that would kick in if the community as a whole failed to meet rising quotas for the draft. But it has also faced criticism from proponents of an equal draft for delaying such criminal sanctions until mid-2017, after the next election.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report