A mass rally is to be held by the haredi community in Jerusalem starting at 4 p.m. Sunday to protest against government efforts to draft haredi men into military service.
The demonstration was announced on Tuesday by a joint meeting of the rabbinical councils of Degel Hatorah, Agudat Yisrael, and Shas, the country’s three mainstream haredi movements.
Since the rally has the endorsement of the rabbinic leadership, it is likely that hundreds of thousands of the haredi public will attend the demonstration.
The event, to be held close to the Binyanei Hauma conference center, has been officially titled by the organizers “The mass rally for prayer and crying out against the injury to those who study the Torah.”
A special logo has been designated for media use for the event that includes a picture of a Torah behind barbed wire, with the words “the holy Torah will prevail” underneath.
The police Traffic Division has called on the public not to drive to Jerusalem after noon on Sunday and until after the rally has concluded. Private vehicles will not be allowed to drive eastbound on Route 1 from the Ben-Shemen interchange from 1:45 p.m. onward.
The haredi leadership has called the rally to protest against stipulations in the government conscription bill that would make the Security Service Law, which provides for two years’ imprisonment to draft-dodgers, also applicable to full-time yeshiva students, as it is to all other Jewish men eligible for military service.
The leading haredi rabbis and politicians claim such a step amounts to “criminalizing” Torah study, which is ideologically unacceptable to them, whereas proponents of the bill say that the law cannot discriminate in favor of one sector of the population by exempting them from national service while others are legally obligated to serve.
Haredi rabbis around the country are expected to exhort congregants to attend the rally, with children as young as nine years old to be allowed to participate.
Psalms and prayers are to be recited at the rally in the presence of the senior haredi rabbinic leadership, although no speeches will be delivered.
Women and children residents of Jerusalem have been invited to participate, but the rabbinic leadership has said that those living outside the capital do not need to attend.
Several prominent national- religious rabbis are also expected to attend, including Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, dean of the Ateret Yerushalayim yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem.
On another front of the conscription battle, the community newspaper of the Belz hassidic dynasty announced on its front page on Thursday that preparations are being made for the mass emigration of haredim out of Israel in light of the government bill.
“Preliminary preparations under way for mass departure from Israel,” blasted the weekly Hamahane Haharedi across its front page. The newspaper also wrote that US senators have promised to help gain refugee status for haredim fleeing the country.
“All the rabbis from all the rabbinical councils who participated in this week’s historic joint meeting are of the opinion that the evil government of Lapid and Netanyahu wants to uproot haredi Jewry, to halt its expansion, and since the shared opinion is not to go to the army under any condition and in any way, the proposal of emigration has arisen, with all the pain that leaving the Holy Land would entail,” the newspaper said.
Additionally, a prayer rally was held against the new legislation on Thursday afternoon at the Jerusalem grave of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the late spiritual leader of the Shas movement.
The event was organized by the Grave of our Rabbi Yeshiva and was attended by prominent haredi leader Rabbi Reuven Elbaz and Shas chairman Arye Deri.