Soldier effigies hung in Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhood

Cops remove life-sized, uniformed doll from roof in Mea Shearim before it can be burned by anti-draft activists; second figurine taken down hours later

File: An effigy of an ultra-Orthodox soldier seized by police in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem on Purim, March 2, 2018 (Israel Police)
File: An effigy of an ultra-Orthodox soldier seized by police in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem on Purim, March 2, 2018 (Israel Police)

Police removed an effigy of an IDF soldier that had been hung from a roof in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem on Friday.

As the city celebrated the festival of Purim, officers were booed and jeered at by a crowd on the street as they removed the life-sized, uniformed doll, police said.

“Police removed an effigy of a soldier from a building in the Mea Shearim neighborhood,” a police statement said. “A preliminary investigation found that it was saturated with flammable liquid, apparently with the intent of setting it on fire.”

Police launched an investigation into the incident. A few hours later officers took down a second effigy that had been hung up nearby.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who has raised hackles in the ultra-Orthodox community over his support for increased participation in the military among yeshiva students, condemned the effigy.

“The sight of the soldier effigy in Mea Shearim is shocking,” he tweeted. “It is my job as defense minister to protect [all Israelis and] also these agitators. It is my job as a citizen to fight them politically. It is the authorities’ job to lock them up. I expect the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties to condemn this act.”

In September 2017, an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem man was arrested for burning an effigy of an IDF soldier during the Lag B’Omer festival earlier that year.

Friday’s incident comes days after ultra-Orthodox lawmakers threatened to veto the 2019 state budget if the military draft bill was not passed, which would lead to the government’s collapse.

At issue is the form that new military draft legislation will take after the High Court of Justice in September threw out a law exempting ultra-Orthodox men engaged in religious study from military service, on the grounds it undermined the principle of equality before the law.

The court suspended its decision for a year to allow for a new arrangement to be put in place, giving the government the option to pass a new law.

On Thursday, Liberman poked fun at his political opponents by dressing up as an ultra-Orthodox soldier to mark Purim, traditionally celebrated by wearing costumes.

The issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment has been a contentious one in Israel, revolving around a decades-old debate as to whether young ultra-Orthodox men studying in yeshivas, or seminaries, should be called up for compulsory military service like the rest of Israel’s Jewish population. After reaching the age of 18, men must serve for 32 months and women for 24.

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis, who for decades enjoyed a blanket exemption from army service, oppose what they say is the IDF’s lax observance of Jewish laws. Recent attempts to cater to ultra-Orthodox recruits have been met with some success, but many ultra-Orthodox soldiers still face harassment, threats, and assault while on leave in Haredi neighborhoods.

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