A demonstration staged by the radical Eda Haredit organization turned violent Thursday night, with haredi protestors throwing rocks, glass bottles and other objects at police, injuring at least eight officers, two of whom were taken to hospital in moderate condition.
The police made at least ten arrests and fired a water cannon to disperse violent protesters.
Between 25 to 30 thousand haredi men protested against
government plans to draft ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students.
The protest in front of Jerusalem’s IDF recruiting office in
Romema was supported by leading haredi Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who is
the head of what is known as the Jerusalem Faction, a grouping of non-hassidic
haredim who do not accept the leadership of Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the
otherwise acknowledged leader of the non-hassidic haredi
Speaking at the protest, Auerbach implored the haredi
community not to back down on the issue of enlistment.
“There can be no
compromise here. We will stand as a wall against these decrees, so nothing can
penetrate them,” the rabbi said.
“If we create even the smallest gap in
this wall, then it will open the way for them to enter,” he
“Yeshiva students should not listen to these blandishments
that if they go to the army, they’ll be able to earn a better income. It’s like
[the biblical figure] Esau who sold his birthright for a pot of lentils,” said
Rabbi Yitzhak Tuvia Weis, head of the Eda Haredit, echoed these
“We will not deviate from our path, we will not leave the
study hall and we will not allow foreign influences inside the study hall,” he
“There are people who want to uproot Torah from the Jewish
people, and our task is not to leave the study hall.”
Shternboch, the second-most senior figure in the Eda Haredit, said that the
community would continue as it has done despite any laws passed by the
“Let us educate our children as we have done for
generations. You can take budgets and decree your decrees, but we will
carry on as we have done regardless.”
The Eda Haredit is a particularly
radical segment in the haredi community but represents only a few thousand
families, predominantly in Jerusalem.
The demonstration was not backed by
Shteinman and the mainstream haredi leadership, although they are vigorously
opposed to the enlistment of yeshiva students.
A ministerial committee,
headed by Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri, is currently
drawing up legislation to make national service compulsory for haredi
Last week, political sources said that the committee was
deliberating on whether to leave in place existing provisions of the Law of
Military Service of 1986, through which refusal to serve is punishable by
Criminal sanctions for those refusing to serve were opposed
in discussions on the issue last summer by the haredi political parties, as well
as Likud, and were not mentioned in the outline for haredi recruitment legislation that formed a critical part of the
coalition agreement between Likud Beytenu and Yesh Atid.
sources reported last week that the notion of criminal sanctions had arisen
again in the committee because of potential problems with the efficacy of
economic sanctions that have been suggested to spur haredi
The coalition agreement called for full implementation of the
new law by 2017, with significant recruitment targets for the interim years.
According to that outline, 1,800 haredi men will receive full exemptions from
national service every year in order to continue with full-time yeshiva study,
with the remainder of the annual intake serving in either the military or in the
civilian service program.
Approximately 7,000 haredi men turn 18 every
year, although estimates vary.
Back in October, Auerbach and his
followers established a new political party called Netzah to compete with the
established non-hassidic haredi party Degel HaTorah (part of United Torah
Judaism) for the vote of that constituency in the January general
The move came as a result of Auerbach’s failure to capture the
haredi leadership, as well as perceived political slights by Rabbi Shteinman and
the mainstream haredi rabbis toward Auerbach’s faction.
Netzah did not run in the elections but withdrew at the last moment, on
condition that the mainstream haredi leadership consult with Auerbach before
making any agreements regarding the issue of haredi enlistment.
week’s reports about the possibility that haredi yeshiva students would be
willing to serve was widely reported in the haredi press.
Ne’eman, the newspaper and mouthpiece of Degel HaTorah, nor Hamodia, a newspaper
of the mainstream hassidic Agudat Yisrael party, mentioned the call for
Thursday’s demonstration in its Thursday edition.
Alongside the haredi
demonstrators was a small counter-demonstration led by enlisted haredi soldiers
protesting in favor of sharing the burden of service.
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