Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators blocked traffic and disrupted the light rail service for several hours Thursday in protest of the arrest of an army draft-dodger from a religious seminary in Jerusalem.
Protesters sat in the street and on the rail tracks at a junction of Jaffa Road, near the main traffic entrance to the city, chanting “We will die and not be drafted.”
Some of the protesters reportedly called police “Nazis.”
Police said 30 people were arrested during the demonstration at the intersection of the Jaffa and Sarei Yisrael streets, near the capital’s Central Bus Station.
Shortly after the demonstration, video footage emerged showing an IDF soldier briefly aiming his rifle at Haredi protesters, prompting security guards at the bus station to escort him away from the scene. Ultra-Orthodox men surrounding the soldier had called him a “Nazi,” according to the video, reportedly after the serviceman had insulted them.
The IDF refused to comment on the incident.
Hebrew-language media reported that the demonstration was sparked by the arrest of a 26-year-old ultra-Orthodox man who had ignored summons from the army draft office for five years.
Unlike in previous similar protests, when traffic was jammed for hours, police prepared ahead of time and were able to keep the roads partially open by using water cannons and horse-mounted police.
In recent years, there have been several large protests against the Israel Defense Forces draft by an extremist non-Zionist sect, known as the Jerusalem Faction, blocking traffic in Jerusalem and elsewhere.
Many in the ultra-Orthodox community shun the mandatory military service that applies to most Israelis, and the community has historically enjoyed blanket exemptions from the army in favor of religious seminary studies.