A haredi soldier was attacked by dozens of haredi men on Tuesday night in the ultra- Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She’arim.
According to the police, at approximately 7:30 p.m., the soldier, who was in uniform, was surrounded and threatened by approximately 100 haredi men on Gimzo Street in the heart of Mea She’arim, but managed to flee to a nearby building and alert the police.
Several police units were called to the scene, including Border Police and riot officers, who forcibly broke through the crowd of haredi men and succeeded in safely extracting the soldier.
National police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the unidentified soldier was “shaken up” but not injured when police arrived, adding that stones were thrown at officers by the crowd before the soldier was transported to safety.
A low-level riot continued after the soldier was extricated, with more haredi men joining the crowd, until the police succeeded in dispersing the protesters. At least four arrests were made on charges of disturbing the peace.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, vowing to "take a hard stand against those who attempt to strike fear in citizens fulfilling their duty to the state."
Netanyahu added that the best way to combat "lawbreakers" of this kind was to continue to increase the number of haredim enlisting in the IDF, a goal he said would be greatly helped by the Peri bill to increase ultra-Orthodox enlistment which the cabinet approved earlier this week.
Finance Minister and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid blamed the attack on the current campaign of incitement against haredi soldiers being conducted by extremist elements in the community.
“The ongoing incitement and wild, violent attacks against enlisted haredi soldiers, like today’s serious incident, evokes deep shock,” Lapid said.
The finance minister said he would call an emergency meeting with Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to look into possible methods for the police to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.
The rabbis of the Nahal Haredi combat unit for ultra- Orthodox soldiers also condemned the incident.
“The attack against the haredi soldier in Mea She’arim is an embarrassment and a disgrace, said Rabbis Yitzhak Bar- Haim, Yaron David and Tzvi Klebnou, among others, who founded the unit and serve as rabbis to its soldiers.
“This is an act which is not Jewish and not haredi but simply a disgrace of God’s name. With all the pain we feel as haredim regarding the steps taken by the government, it is forbidden for us to take out our anger against haredi soldiers who are our flesh and blood.
“The time has come for our community, the haredi community, to denounce these attackers, something which will prevent these shameful incidents from happening again in the future.”
Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri, who headed a committee which has drawn up legislation for drafting haredi men into the army, strongly condemned what his office termed “an attempted lynch.”
“Any attempt to physically harm or [damage] the morale of soldiers will be answered immediately and uncompromisingly by the state,” said Peri.
“Incidents such as what occurred this evening will not be allowed to pass quietly by the authorities. I request that the leaders of haredi society assert control before a tragedy happens.”
Shas chairman Arye Deri said he was shocked and disgusted by the attack, blaming it on “extremist and delinquent youth.”
“Their ways are not our ways, and the sages said he who lifts up a hand against his fellow is called an evil person,” Deri noted in a statement to the press.
The Shas chairman said he was calling on the heads of all political parties to “return to dialogue, understanding and reconciliation,” in order to avoid similar incidents.
There have been at least two other physical attacks against ultra-Orthodox soldiers by members of the haredi public in recent weeks.
A concerted campaign is currently being conducted by radical elements in the ultra- Orthodox community to delegitimize and stigmatize haredi men who choose to serve in the IDF as having betrayed the haredi community.
The campaign includes the dissemination of flyers, posters and information about the “danger” these soldiers pose to the community.
In a Knesset committee hearing last week, Brig.-Gen. Gadi Agmon of the IDF Manpower Directorate noted that the army has received 80 complaints of physical violence and verbal abuse, in which haredi soldiers have reported that tires of their vehicles have been slashed, graffiti has been sprayed at their homes, they have been spat on and stones have been thrown at them.
Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.
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