Police arrested 11 people from the ultra-Orthodox community Tuesday during a protest against the jailing of two men accused of dodging a military draft notice, the latest in a series of confrontations over the issue.
Hundreds of people gathered in the capital’s Shabbat Square, in the heart of the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood, to protest the jailing of the two students, who have become the symbols of a wider fight against new rules forcing Haredi men to serve in the army.
Men held aloft signs calling on Jews to ignore draft notices and claiming that enlistment was “Zionist genocide.”
On Monday, two police officers were lightly injured, and one man was arrested, when violence broke out during a protest outside a military prison south of Haifa, where the two are being held.
The two arrests of the yeshiva students, both of which came last week, are seemingly the first since a law granting exemptions to yeshiva students was declared unconstitutional over a year ago.
Until July 2012, the Tal Law granted blanket de-facto exemptions from IDF service to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox. The High Court of Justice struck down the Tal Law in February 2012, giving the Knesset until August 2012 to draft alternative legislation, which it was unable to do. There is currently no law governing the draft of the ultra-Orthodox beyond the 1949 Defense Service Law.
Since alternative legislation is forthcoming, both the ultra-Orthodox and the IDF have largely adhered to the status quo. The yeshiva students have mostly continued to answer the army’s summonses and the army has allowed them to return to their studies, as was common when the Tal Law was in existence.
However, prominent ultra-Orthodox leader Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach has reportedly instructed his followers to cease cooperating with the army and to refuse to respond to all army draft notices.
The first arrest came December 1, when a student from a yeshiva in Petah Tikva was arrested at his home in Kiryat Malachi. Both men were sentenced to two weeks in prison, according to the IDF.
Police dispersed ultra-Orthodox protesters in Ramat Beit Shemesh Sunday after they blocked traffic.
And last Wednesday, over 700 people — including Auerbach — rallied outside the prison in Atlit, south of Haifa. They held aloft signs reading “Down with religious persecution in Israel” and “The enlistment — a plot to dismantle the holy yeshivot,” and sang and danced to Hanukkah songs.
Auerbach met briefly with one of the students and offered him words of encouragement.
A new, government-sponsored bill that would regulate the draft passed its first reading in the Knesset on July 23. The bill would greatly reduce the number of deferments given to yeshiva students and is expected to radically increase Haredi enlistment. The proposed legislation is currently undergoing revision, and will be up for a second and third Knesset reading at a later date.