Forty-six people were arrested and a police officer was injured as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews blocked an intersection close to the entrance to Jerusalem Thursday afternoon in protest at the arrest of a draft-dodging yeshiva student.
Police advised residents to avoid the intersection of Jaffa and Sarei Yisrael roads as they worked to remove the protesters.
The 46 were detained for disturbing the peace, and there were reportedly minor scuffles between police and the demonstrators.
One female police officer was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Walla news reported large traffic jams in the area as a result of the demonstration, and the light rail transportation system was stopped.
The protesters were reportedly part of the Jerusalem Faction, a radical ultra-Orthodox group formerly headed by the late Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach.
While the issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment has been a contentious one in Israel – revolving around a decades-old debate as to whether young ultra-Orthodox men studying in yeshivas, or seminaries, should be called up for compulsory military service like the rest of Israel’s Jewish population — these protests are over the Jerusalem Faction’s refusal to have any connection at all with the military.
Ultra-Orthodox Israelis are routinely exempted from enlistment, but they are required to report to enlistment offices in order to sign a deferral of service, which Jerusalem Faction rabbinic leaders order their students not to do.
Ultra-Orthodox Israelis have for decades enjoyed a blanket exemption from army service. Recent attempts to cater to ultra-Orthodox recruits have been met with some success, rising from some 300 ultra-Orthodox enlistees each year a decade ago to some 3,000 last year. But many ultra-Orthodox soldiers still face harassment, threats, and assault when they go home on leave to ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.
Police and Jerusalemites were already braced for traffic delays Thursday ahead of the capital’s Gay Pride Parade which is to begin at 5:15 p.m. Roads will be closed from 3 p.m. and in addition anti-gay protests were planned for the entrance to the city and near the parade route in the city center.