Video by Yochai Cohen/News 24
More than 500 haredim rioted in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood Thursday afternoon to protest the arrest of a young man for refusing to report for IDF service.
The violence marks the latest sign of mounting social tensions after the government passed a law requiring ultra-Orthodox men to serve in the army or take part in compulsory national service.
Many haredi rabbis have issued public prohibitions of enlistment, though failure to report for service can result in up to two years’ imprisonment.
According to police, shortly after the unidentified conscript was arrested, radical members of the community gathered and began throwing rocks at police, setting trash bins on fire and blocking traffic.
“Special patrol units in the area promptly arrived at the scene to deal with the disturbances, which have resulted in five arrests so far,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld an hour after the rioting began.
Rosenfeld added that police have closed off traffic in and out of the neighborhood and cordoned off the scene of the riot, to contain the violence.
No serious injuries were reported as of this publication.
Mea She’arim has been no stranger to such radical demonstrations since the conscription bill was announced last year.
In December, after two young men were arrested for failing to report to IDF enlistment offices, hundreds of haredim there blocked traffic, threw rocks and set fire to trash cans and dumpsters, resulting in at least 11 arrests.
Last month, hundreds of thousands of haredim gathered in Jerusalem in one of the largest demonstrations in the nation’s history to protest the conscription bill.
That demonstration, officially titled the “Torah will be Victorious” rally, was called by the three rabbinic councils of the mainstream haredi political movements in Israel. It paralyzed the downtown area for several hours.
The rabbinic leadership specifically condemned imprisonment for not serving, claiming that such a step would amount to “criminalizing” Torah study.
The March protest was almost entirely peaceful, although some tires were set on fire in nearby haredi neighborhoods.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.