Posters call for killing of ultra-Orthodox soldiers

Religious rights group files complaint with police, but others say the campaign bears the hallmarks of parody

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

An ultra-Orthodox man observes a group of soldiers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem (illustrative photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An ultra-Orthodox man observes a group of soldiers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem (illustrative photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Posters advocating holy war and the murder of ultra-Orthodox IDF soldiers popped up in a religious neighborhood of Jerusalem on Monday, coming close on the heels of a string of assaults on religious draftees.

The pashkvils, printed public notices pasted to walls, in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, called upon “all those who fear the word of God” to rise up against their oppressors — which it identifies as “the evil government and its emissaries the Hardakim.”

Hardakim is a Hebrew slang neologism for ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim) who join the army. It is a contraction of Haredim kalei da’at, or “weak-minded Haredim,” which also echoes the Hebrew term for bacteria, haydakim.

It was not clear who was responsible for printing or posting the notices, but commentators on Orthodox Internet forums Behadrei Haredim and postulated that the over-the-top formulations on the poster suggested that it was either an attempt at parody or to besmirch the ultra-Orthodox community.

Evoking language from the story of Pinehas — a zealot priest whom the Bible says smote an Israelite chief and a gentile woman who were engaged in an idolatrous sexual ritual — the bills equate those who enlist in the IDF to those who lay with the daughters of Midian, and calls on the righteous “to do hara-kiri to each and every [ultra-Orthodox soldier].”

A poster found in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood calling for 'hardakiri' to ultra-Orthodox soldiers (photo credit: Courtesy Hiddush)
A poster found in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood calling for ‘hardakiri’ to ultra-Orthodox soldiers (photo credit: Courtesy Hiddush)

The bottom of the posters features a phone number for donations, which belongs to a religious school situated at the West Bank shrine of the Tomb of Rachel. A representative of the hotline told The Times of Israel that she was wholly unaware of the posters in question.

Three other phone numbers on the pashkvils direct “those ready to give their souls to sally forth in holy war” to an automated messaging system for an organization called Mivtzar (Hebrew for castle), which offers aid for ultra-Orthodox on draft-related matters. It instructs callers to dial 5 “to report a teen who was drafted or is about to be drafted,” and to dial 6 “to report discretely about all important information.”

Attempts to contact Mivtzar for comment were unsuccessful.

Hiddush, an Israeli NGO advocating freedom of religion and equality, lodged a complaint with the police, and CEO Rabbi Uri Regev denounced the posters as part of a string of grave criminal acts.

“In light of the wave of violence against ultra-Orthodox soldiers there’s a need for immediate and decisive action in order to prevent injuries and murders,” Regev said in a statement. “Whoever incites to kill soldiers is a terrorist in every respect and that’s how we should treat him.”

The IDF had no comment specific to the incident, but reiterated in a statement that “We condemn any action that prevents Israeli citizens from executing their civil duty to contribute to the defense of the State of Israel. We are cooperating with the relevant authorities in order to curtail this phenomenon as soon as possible.”

An Israel Police spokesperson said the incident was under investigation, and police chief Yohanan Danino called for prosecution of the attackers, saying that “any attack on a soldier or public official is grave in itself, and doubly serious because of the alleged motive.”

Tensions over IDF enlistment have been simmering in the Haredi community since a High Court ruling last year that declared a long-standing exemption from conscription for ultra-Orthodox men to be unconstitutional.

Extreme ultra-Orthodox elements perceive attempts to draft members of their community as an affront to traditional Jewish mores, and a mortal threat to their conservative way of life. The community has organized rallies and protest marches, its leaders have delivered sermons assailing the military, and Haredi men who do enlist have been subject to taunts, threats and even violence on their return home: Last week, two ultra-Orthodox soldiers were accosted by Haredi assailants in Jerusalem. A third was attacked on Sunday.

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, a prominent religious leader in Bnei Brak, on Monday denounced the attacks, saying that the perpetrators “caused great damage to the world of Torah. They are not just thugs, but also fools.”

“It is incumbent upon the people of the [ultra-Orthodox community] to condemn the attack on the soldier,” Edelstein said, and called on community leaders in the Jerusalem, where the attacks took place, to step forward and denounce them.

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