Religious soldier attacked in ultra-Orthodox neighborhood

Third such incident in past week in Jerusalem; police searching for two assailants

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)

A religious soldier was assaulted Sunday while walking through an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, the third such attack in the past week.

The soldier was walking in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood just north of Mea Shearim, home to the Mir Yeshiva, the world’s largest. Two ultra-Orthodox men attacked the soldier, and a scuffle broke out, according to initial reports. The attackers were seen fleeing the scene.

The soldier said later that he was spat upon and told he would “burn in hell” for serving in the army.

According to police, the soldier did not suffer any injuries. They were looking for the two assailants.

The incident comes amid a wave of anti-military sentiment in extremist ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, which have vowed to fight recent legislation that would see them included in the Israel Defense Forces’ mandatory draft.

Last Thursday, an ultra-Orthodox soldier walking through the streets of Jerusalem was assaulted by men throwing food and water at him. The incident occurred on Shmuel Hanavi Street, when a commercial van pulled up to the soldier and the Haredi occupants began cursing the soldier.

That incident came just two days after another ultra-Orthodox soldier was attacked in Mea Shearim on Tuesday by a mob who cursed and struck him. He fled into a building and alerted the police.

Municipal and Border Police who arrived on the scene last Tuesday night 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.

While some in the neighborhood condemned the violence, others said the soldier had it coming.

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

The attacks have been met with condemnation from politicians and military officials across the board.

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

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. The community has organized rallies and protest marches, its leaders have delivered sermons assailing the military and Haredi men who enlist. Graffiti in ultra-Orthodox neighborhood has also turned increasingly anti-military, portraying Haredi soldiers as weak-willed parasites.

Last Sunday, the ministerial legislative committee passed the bill paving the way for thousands of ultra-Orthodox men to be drafted into the army. 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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