'Who wants a bullet?'

Cop pulls gun, 12 arrested at ultra-Orthodox anti-draft demonstrations

Officer brandishes weapon and threatens protesters in Jerusalem, female soldier berated and attacked during rallies against IDF service

Ultra-Orthodox men clash with police during an anti-draft protest in Jerusalem on October 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox men clash with police during an anti-draft protest in Jerusalem on October 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Twelve ultra-Orthodox protesters were arrested Monday at two separate anti-draft demonstrations in the capital and outside Tel Aviv.

In Bnei Brak, four protesters were arrested, while eight were arrested in Jerusalem where the deminstrators blocked major roads adjacent to the city’s Central Bus Station.

Video footage of the protest in Jerusalem shows a female solider being harassed by several dozen ultra-Orthodox boys and men who spit on her while calling her a “shiksa,” a pejorative Yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman that derives from the Hebrew for “vermin.”

The soldier is seen kicking the protesters as she tries to clear the road.

In a separate incident at the protest in Jerusalem, a police officer pulled a gun at protesters, threatening them. Video footage obtained by Channel 10, shows the officer asking the protesters blocking the road “who wants a bullet?”

Ultra-orthodox protesters have alleged police brutality at previous demonstrations.

Monday’s protest was the latest in a series of recent demonstrations by ultra-Orthodox protesters over the arrest of members of the community for failing to show up to the Israel Defense Forces draft offices.

Last month, the High Court of Justice struck down a law exempting ultra-Orthodox men engaged in religious study from military service, saying it undermined equality. The decision raises the possibility that they could be forced into service, a highly contentious proposition with political implications.

However, the court suspended its decision for one year to allow for preparations for the new arrangement — which also provides the government with the opportunity to pass a new law.

Ultra-Orthodox political parties, holding key positions in the ruling coalition, are likely to draft new legislation that could seek to override the court ruling and keep the exemption in place.

The issue is part of a decades-old debate over whether young ultra-Orthodox men studying at yeshivas should undergo compulsory military service like the rest of Israel’s Jewish population.

After reaching the age of 18, men must serve for 32 months, and women must serve for 24.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against the military draft in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood, December 22, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ultra-Orthodox seminary students have been largely exempt from Israel’s military draft since then-defense minister David Ben-Gurion exempted 400 students from service in 1949 on the grounds that “their studies are their craft.” Exceptional young artists and athletes are often granted exemptions by the Defense Ministry on the grounds that two or three years of military service could hold them back dramatically.

The ultra-Orthodox oppose serving for a variety of reasons, with the most extreme believing a Jewish state is not allowed before the coming of the Messiah. Others argue that study of religious texts is just as important to Israel as military service or that ultra-Orthodox soldiers would be confronted with irreligious behavior.

The court decision drew instant condemnation from ultra-Orthodox leaders and sparked a number of protests opposing the move.

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