Ultra-Orthodox to protest IDF draft bill in New York

Sunday’s solidarity event comes week after 300,000 gathered in Jerusalem to demonstrate against Knesset proposal

Illustrative: Satmar Hasidim in the United States. (screen capture: YouTube)
Illustrative: Satmar Hasidim in the United States. (screen capture: YouTube)

A week after hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters gathered in a mass prayer rally at the entrance to Jerusalem, a similar gathering will held by American Jews Sunday in New York.

The solidarity event, which protests against the universal draft bill expected to pass in the Knesset this week, has been organized by the Agudath Israel of America umbrella organization, including the hard-line Satmar sect.

“Whoever is pained by this law knows they must attend this rally,” Satmar head Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum instructed his followers.

The event will take pace in Lower Manhattan, near Wall Street, at 2 p.m. and will begin with an afternoon prayer service.

Last week’s demonstration in Jerusalem, which drew some 300,000 people according to Israeli police — organizers put the figure several hundred thousands higher — was billed as a mass prayer session to protest a Knesset bill that would impose criminal sanctions on ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers.

The new rules been vociferously protested by the Haredi community, which for years enjoyed draft deferrals for Torah study, until the legislation allowing the deferrals was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2012.

The bill seeks to extend mandatory military or civil service to the ultra-Orthodox, would go into effect on July 1, 2017, should it pass a second and third reading in the parliament.

It will allow ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students the right to defer service until the age of 26, with incentives to enlist earlier. It will allow for a large number, more than half of draft-age youths, to be exempt altogether during the first year, recognizing them as uniquely important students of Torah. But it will make draft evasion among the ultra-Orthodox a criminal offense.

Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.

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