Several hundred loyalists of a hard-line haredi faction demonstrated across the country on Wednesday night.
The protest was against the arrest of a yeshiva student associated with the group who failed to present himself at an IDF enlistment office for preliminary conscription processing.
The protests, which took place in 10 locations around the country, were largely peaceful and little violence was reported. However, the demonstrators caused large traffic jams on Route 4 close to Bnei Brak and the Coca-Cola junction.
Hundreds of haredi men and youths identifying with the staunch Jerusalem Faction took to the streets at key traffic intersections close to Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh, Modi’in Illit, Elad, Ashdod, Petah Tikva, Dimona, Ofakim and outside IDF Prison 6, close to Atlit in the North.
At least two men were arrested. The organizers of the demonstrations instructed protesters not to violently confront the police.
The Jerusalem Faction, led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, opposes any cooperation with the state regarding the conscription of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshiva students and instructs those associated with the group not to report to the IDF even for the beginning of the bureaucratic process.
During the two-and-a-half years since the “Tal Law” expired, youth associated with the mainstream haredi leadership have reported for the preliminary conscription process but their enlistment was repeatedly postponed.
Yaakov Yisrael Paz, a yeshiva student from Ashdod associated with the faction, was arrested on Sunday by military police for failing to report.
Most protesters at Wednesday’s demonstrations were young men, as well as some minors. One sign held by demonstrators read “Enough with the secular coercion,” while another said “Threats and enticements, economic or criminal, will not change anything, those who observe the Torah do not enlist.”
Last week, the Knesset approved a government- backed law imposing a legal obligation on ultra-Orthodox men to serve in the military.
The law was bitterly opposed by haredi rabbinic and political leadership, while non-haredi critics expressed concerns that the law would not be effective.