Thousands of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators opposed to compulsory military service blocked roads near the main entrance to Jerusalem on Tuesday to protest the arrest of a draft-dodging yeshiva student.
The demonstration slowed car traffic and disrupted light rail service, as protesters clashed with police who tried to remove them from the road. All of the surrounding roads were cleared several hours after the protest began.
Police said an officer required medical care after being struck in the head by a bottle hurled toward cops at the Chords Bridge. Two other cops were injured in the clashes.
Officers arrested two demonstrators for violating public order, according to a police statement.
Video from the protest showed demonstrators surrounding a car carrying IDF Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, who could be seen pulling a pistol from a bag.
Strick and the other passengers of the vehicle were then safely extracted from the area with the help of police officers.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi later expressed support for Strick and denounced the protesters for their “wild and unrestrained behavior,” an Israel Defense Forces statement said.
The demonstrators, members of the hardline Jerusalem faction, were protesting the arrest of a 20-year-old for not visiting a draft office to arrange deferment of his mandatory conscription.
The ultra-Orthodox community has historically enjoyed blanket deferrals from the military in favor of religious seminary studies, and many of its members shun military service, which is mandatory for other Jewish Israelis. However, there is opposition to the arrangement from many in the broader population, who want the ultra-Orthodox to help shoulder the burden of defending the country.
Last month, the High Court of Justice gave the government until February 1 to pass legislation exempting ultra-Orthodox students from mandatory military service, saying no further extensions to the deadline would be granted.
As a result of the ruling, which came in response to a government request for the deadline to be extended by six months, ultra-Orthodox students will be conscripted like other Israelis required to enlist if no law is advanced.
Multiple variations of the ultra-Orthodox draft law have been advanced by the Knesset and knocked down by the High Court of Justice in a decade-long legal and political saga.