Haredi soldier attacked by mob in Mea Shearim

Police, medics also assaulted; four ultra-Orthodox men arrested; incident sparks wall-to-wall condemnation

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Israeli Border Police officers keep the peace in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood on Tuesday, July 9. (photo credit: Flash90)
Israeli Border Police officers keep the peace in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood on Tuesday, July 9. (photo credit: Flash90)

An ultra-Orthodox IDF soldier was attacked by dozens of ultra-Orthodox men in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood Tuesday night. He managed to escape the mob, who beat him with sticks and fists and threw eggs at him, by running into a nearby apartment building and calling the police.

Municipal and Border Police who arrived on the scene were attacked by the growing crowd, as were medics called to the area. The attackers threw stones at the officers and called them Nazis. The police eventually managed to restore the peace and pulled the soldier out safely.

Four Haredi men were arrested for allegedly participating in the assault, believed to be spurred by ultra-Orthodox anger at the government’s plan to draft their community members into the army.

The soldier, who lives in central Israel and studies in the yeshiva Shuvu Banim, was in the neighborhood visiting relatives. He filed an official police complaint against his attackers.

Channel 10 news said the assailants, who belong to an extremist sect, vowed to attack any soldiers who dare set foot in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

The attack was met with condemnation from across the political spectrum.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to take serious steps against “anyone who tries to threaten citizens who fulfill their obligations to the state.”

“The best response to these lawbreakers is the number of ultra-Orthodox enlistees which has significantly grown in recent years,” he said.

“The ongoing incitement and the violent wild attacks against ultra-Orthodox enlistees, like the serious incident this evening in Jerusalem, should be roundly condemned and arouse deep shock,” said Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid).

Lapid said he would call an emergency meeting with Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch to discuss steps the police should take in response to the attack.

MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), a former IDF chief of staff, said, “We cannot let soldiers turn into moving targets for political assaults… We need to protect these soldiers in every place they are in danger.”

“Every attempt to harm soldiers physically or to harm their morale will be answered immediately with a firm hand by the state,” declared Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), chairman of the committee tasked with drafting a plan for Haredi enlistment. “Incidents like the one this evening will not pass by quietly, and I demand that the leaders of the Haredi community take the reins before a tragedy occurs.”

Some parliamentarians from ultra-Orthodox parties deplored the attack as well. “I feel disgust and repugnance at the actions of extremist youth who harmed, without shame, a Jewish soldier this evening,” said MK Aryeh Deri (Shas). “I warned repeatedly… that this is a serious and unacceptable phenomenon and it should be dealt with using all available means. I call on the party heads to return speedily to conversations of understanding and reconciliation, so that we won’t see more scenes like this.”

On Sunday, the ministerial legislative committee passed a new draft bill paving the way for thousands of ultra-Orthodox men to be enlisted in the army. The bill passed with 14 ministers voting in favor and four abstaining: Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Yair Shamir, Sofa Landver and Uri Ariel.

The bill must now go before the Knesset before being signed into law, but the imprimatur of the legislative committee means it has the coalition’s backing and is likely to pass in parliament.

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