Ultra-Orthodox protesters, soccer fans clash in Jerusalem

Ultra-Orthodox protesters, soccer fans clash in Jerusalem

Also in the capital, Haredim disrupt religious-secular Shabbat event at the Mahane Yehuda market

Ultra-Orthodox activists clashed Saturday night with supporters of a Jerusalem soccer club, with Beitar fans throwing rocks at the protesters, who responded in kind. Police dispersed the crowds, and there were no reports of injuries or arrests.

The ultra-Orthodox protesters had stopped traffic on Shivtei Israel and Haturim streets in the capital, as well as torching dumpsters, police said.

The soccer fans, who had earlier watched their team beat Hapoel Ashkelon 2-0 at Teddy Stadium, returned along a route that took them through the demonstrations and stopped to confront the Haredi protesters.

It was the most recent in a wave of demonstrations sparked by the arrest of two yeshiva students earlier this month for failing to show up at the Israel Defense Forces draft offices. Dozens have been arrested in the demonstrations, which have often devolved into violent clashes with police.

The issue is part of a decades-old debate as to whether young ultra-Orthodox men studying at yeshivas 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 must serve for 24.

Earlier this year, the High Court of Justice struck down a law exempting ultra-Orthodox men engaged in religious study from military service, saying it undermined social equality. The decision raises the possibility that they could be forced into service, a highly contentious proposition with political implications. However, the court suspended its decision for a year to allow for preparations for the new arrangement, giving the government the option to pass a new law.

The demonstration Saturday came hours after violent clashes between members of the ultra-Orthodox community and secular Jerusalemites in the Mahane Yehuda Market.

Trouble began at midday, when several demonstrators tried to disrupt a joint religious-secular event that saw some 100 people gather in the closed market to enjoy food and joint activities, the Kol Ha’Ir local news site reported.

Organized by city council member Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and the Yerushalmit Movement, which campaigns for cooperation between communities in the capital, the happening was arranged to include only kosher food and adhere to religious restrictions for Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.

The ultra-Orthodox demonstrators shouted at participants until police moved them away.

According to the Ynet news site, the protesters then moved to another location in the city, on Haneviim Street, where some 200 other demonstrators had gathered for a weekly protest, organized by the anti-Zionist Orthodox Council of Jerusalem, against the operation of businesses on Shabbat.

Some 20 secular counter-protesters against religious coercion confronted the Haredi activists. Although police tried to keep the two camps separated, some of the ultra-Orthodox demonstrators reportedly attacked secular protesters. There were no reports of arrests of injuries in the clashes.

Israeli law forbids businesses from operating during the Jewish day of rest, with exceptions including places of entertainment, restaurants and basic services such as pharmacies.

Tel Aviv, home to a mostly secular population, has sought to widen the scope of businesses allowed to be open on Shabbat, while ultra-Orthodox political factions have sought to add restrictions and improve enforcement of Shabbat laws.

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