Ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem over IDF draft
Police called to Kikar HaShabbat square as demonstrators set fire to trash cans, block traffic
Dozens of ultra-Orthodox men on Saturday burned trash cans and blocked off Jerusalem’s Kikar HaShabbat Square to protest the enlistment of members of their community to the Israel Defense Forces.
Police officers were dispatched at the scene, but no arrests were reported.
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.
Reforms passed in the Knesset in 2014 that sought to do away with the exemptions and gradually increase ultra-Orthodox recruitment has been met fierce opposition from many in the religious community who perceive the army as a threat to their way of life.
Police have sporadically detained ultra-Orthodox draft-dodgers in the past year.
Last week, Police were called to rescue three IDF soldiers after they were trapped inside a Jerusalem synagogue by an angry mob of ultra-Orthodox protesters.
The soldiers were safely extracted from the building, in the Zichron Moshe neighborhood of the capital, after cops pushed back the crowd, police said in a statement.
In August, several dozen ultra-Orthodox protesters clashed with police as they demonstrated outside the Jerusalem army recruitment office against the arrest of a yeshiva student who failed to show up for his enlistment.
Last year, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Equal Service Law, dramatically rolling back 2014 reforms and scrapping collective penalties to be imposed if annual quotas for ultra-Orthodox draftees were not met.
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