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Second Haredi soldier accosted in Jerusalem

Man says he was pelted with garbage from passing van; incident follows more serious assault in Mea Shearim on Tuesday

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

The soldier ran into a nearby building and called the authorities. The police took him to the station in the Russian Compound to lodge a formal complaint.

“I went out of the post office and started walking to my parents’ house,” the soldier told Ynet, “when a van pulled over and I felt bottles thrown at me, as well as everything in the car, including snacks. They started shouting and cursing… I was afraid they’d get off and attack me violently, so I called the police.”

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

Municipal and Border Police who arrived on the scene 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.

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.

Tuesday’s attack was met with condemnation from politicians across the board.

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 attacks come as the government presses ahead with legislation to subject young Haredi men to the military draft. 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 Knesset is now scrambling to draft a proposal for the enlistment of all but 1,800 top Torah scholars each year, but the most extreme elements of the ultra-Orthodox community seem determined to resist the draft. 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.

On Sunday, the ministerial legislative committee passed a new 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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