Ultra-Orthodox demonstrators break into army base
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Ultra-Orthodox demonstrators break into army base

Protesting jailing of a woman as a draft dodger, men riot inside Tzrifin for several minutes before police evict them

Ultra-Orthodox demonstrators protesting for the release of jailed draft dodgers break into Tzrifin army base, May 10, 2017. (Screen capture: Channel 2)
Ultra-Orthodox demonstrators protesting for the release of jailed draft dodgers break into Tzrifin army base, May 10, 2017. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

Dozens of religious men broke into an army base on Wednesday night during a protest against the jailing of ultra-Orthodox draft evaders and rioted for several minutes until police arrived and removed them.

They were among a group of several hundred men from the extreme fringes of the ultra-Orthodox community, who arrived by bus to protest outside the Tzrifin base, where several draft dodgers are being held in jail.

Although protests outside army bases are common, this time the men managed to enter the compound.

The army said it launched an investigation into the incident.

Unusually, the focus of the protest was a young woman of Ethiopian origin who has been held in the military jail for a month and a half.

In most other cases the ultra-Orthodox protesters have been interested only in people from within their religious camp.

Though not from a religious family, relatives of the woman, who has only been named as Rivka, said she had begun to adhere to a religious lifestyle and was thus eligible for an exemption from service.

The army said in response that Rivka had evaded army service for two and a half years, and was refusing to appear before a draft board.

It also said she was late in submitting a request for exemption on religious grounds, which was rejected on Wednesday. After the legal proceedings against her are completed she will appear before another committee, which will decide whether she is able to serve in the army.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews represent about 10 percent of the Israeli population and live in compliance with a strict interpretation of Jewish laws.

Some of them view military service as a corrupting influence on young people, making them more liable to leave the cloistered Ultra-Orthodox world of prayer and religious study.

Ultra-Orthodox men are exempt if studying in yeshiva and women can receive an exemption on religious grounds. However, the issue is controversial among many secular Israelis, who see them as shirking their civic obligation while receiving all of the same benefits, and attempts have been made to remove the exemption.

In order to receive exemptions, they must register at recruitment offices. Yet some, inspired by rabbis hostile to any cooperation with the Israeli authorities, refuse to show up and are arrested as deserters.

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