Thousands of haredi men, women and children gathered at Shabbat Square in
Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood on Monday afternoon for the second mass
protest this summer against the enlistment of yeshiva students into national
In an attempt to underline their opposition to haredi
(ultra-Orthodox) men being drafted into the army, hundreds of the young boys at
the Eda Haredit-planned rally were handcuffed together “to express loudly the
pain of haredi Jews in Israel and abroad.”
Although extremely vocal, the
Eda Haredit represents a small faction of the ultra- Orthodox community and is
one of the most hardline, anti-Zionist groupings within the haredi
In June, the Eda Haredit organized another mass rally, in which
many protesters donned sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on themselves to “avert the
decree of military and national service enlistment.”
According to Rabbi
Avraham Eizenstien, one of the protest organizers, more than 5,000 children were
present at the demonstration.
“We want this cry to go up to God so he
will hear our wailing and save us,” Eizenstien said. “We are bound only by the
instructions of our rabbis and we received instructions from our rabbis that
children should be handcuffed together and this is what we’ve done.”
children at the demonstration wore stickers on their backs and chests, which
bore the words “Daddy, save me so that I will not fall into the destruction of
military or national service.”
Asked what the purpose of the rally was,
one nine-year-old boy said that “it is forbidden to go enlist in the
Another boy said that there were no security problems for Jews
living in Israel before the establishment of the state and that “God will
protect the Jewish people, not the army.”
Haredim from many different
hassidic groups were present at the rally, including those from the radical
Toldos Aharon, Toldos Avraham Yitzhak and Satmar groups.
other protesters held banners declaring the participation and support of the
rally from the Dushinsky and Breslov hassidic groups.
Senior rabbis from
the Eda Haredit were present at the protest, including Rabbi Haim Uri Freund, a
member of the rabbinical court of the organization.
Prayers were led from
the stage, including the recital of psalms and special prayers usually said only
on fast days and in the 10 days of penitence between Rosh Hashana and Yom
A banner strung across the Shabbat Square intersection read: “Our
children are more beloved to us than anything, and they will not be the
Cantonists of the government,” in reference to the forcible drafts imposed on
Jewish children in Prussia in the 18th century.
A hassidic man from the
Toldos Aharon sect, who was ushering a long line of boys down Mea She’arim
street toward Shabbat Square, said that the children were brought to the protest
to demonstrate for whom the battle against the government is being
“We’ve won many victories against the Zionists, but now we’re
fighting for the next generation,” the man said. “It is forbidden to join
together or cooperate with a state which goes against the Torah.”
of the banners held by protesters read, “We will die as Jews rather than
surrender in order to serve in military or national service.” Other signs
declared that those associating themselves with the anti-Zionist Eda Haredit
organization do not take any money from the state and are therefore exempt from
the “decrees” of the government.
In response to the protest, the “Camp
Sucker” movement, which is calling for equalizing the burden of national
service among all groups, condemned the “cynical use of children” and the
“campaign against all civic responsibility” for the State of Israel.
very fact that you live in Israel, enjoying the security the state gives you,
requires you to take part in the obligations of the state,” the group said in a
statement to the media.
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