Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters from an extremist faction shut down Jerusalem’s Shabbat Square and part of the Route 443 highway into the capital on Monday evening to protest the arrest of a draft-dodging young woman.
Four protesters in Jerusalem were arrested, and at both sites police soon dispersed the rioters and reopened the road.
The protest on Route 443 took place near the Mevo Modi’im junction just north of Modi’in.
The Haredi protests followed the arrest of a young ultra-Orthodox woman who refused to arrive at the IDF’s conscription office to declare that she could not serve for religious reasons.
Religious women are regularly released from service but are required to register with the conscription office and declare their desire to be exempted.
A small minority of the Haredi public, represented by the so-called “Jerusalem faction” and the “Eda Haredit” groups, opposes Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state on theological grounds — and has therefore made a point of refusing to register for the draft even when an exemption from service is assured.
The result has been repeated instances of arrests of the draft-dodgers, and ensuing riots by the extremist factions that have occasionally turned violent and have often been fiercely opposed by the broader ultra-Orthodox community and media.
A similar protest shut down Jerusalem’s Jaffa Street in early July after some 2,000 protesters took to the streets following the arrest of a Haredi seminary student who had refused to register for the draft and receive his exemption.
One police officer was wounded in that protest.
Monday’s protest drew a rebuke from one lawmaker from the Russian-speaking Yisrael Beytenu party, which has based its election campaign on opposing what it warns is looming Haredi dominance over Israeli public life. It has also pushed for conscription of Haredi recruits.
“The time has come to stop the wild behavior of these draft-dodgers,” Yisrael Beytenu’s Knesset faction chair, MK Oded Forer, said in a statement Monday night.
“In the past, I proposed legislation to deny [state] subsidies to the yeshivas whose leaders encourage draft-dodging and demonstrations against IDF soldiers. As expected, the Haredi [lawmakers] torpedoed the bill,” he charged, vowing: “After the election, when a nationalist but broad-based and liberal government is formed, we will pass that bill and stop this lawlessness.”