Dozens of haredi extremists took to the streets of Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon to block traffic at a major junction in the city center, with the police deploying mounted police and water cannons with skunk spray to disperse them.
An estimated 150 such extremists, mostly young yeshiva students, blocked traffic at the junction of Jaffa Street and Sarei Yisrael Street beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m.
In total, 46 protesters were arrested for disturbing the public order, as the protests causing serious traffic jams in central Jerusalem. One policewoman was injured.
The demonstration was the latest in a long series of such protest
s by the Jerusalem Faction and other extremist elements which are organized when a yeshiva student associated with one of these groups is arrested and transferred to the military police for refusing to formally obtain their military-service exemption from the IDF.
On Wednesday, yeshiva student Eitan Raada – whose yeshiva Reisheet Hochma is associated with the Jerusalem Faction (Peleg Yerushalmim) – was arrested in northern Israel for having failed to present himself at the IDF enlistment offices to obtain his exemption.
The so-called Committee to Save the Torah World, the operations branch of the Jerusalem Faction, announced on Wednesday night that the group’s rabbis had instructed yeshiva students associated with the extremist group to take to the streets.
Protests in other locations around the country, including close to Safed, also caused traffic jams.
A focal point for the demonstration was the light rail. More than once, protesters ran in front of trains, pounding them and slowing them down. A young boy went in front of the train heading toward Heil Ha’avir, and held his arm against it. The train jolted to an abrupt stop, still not at its station, and the protester backed away.
There were a handful of physical altercations between protesters and police, as well as clashes when police on horseback chased them. They also mocked the police, calling the police women “shiksas,” a derogatory word for non-Jewish women, and calling police in general “Nazis.” It was specifically the female police officers’ job to make protesters move out of the trains’ way, seemingly because the protesters would rather move than be touched by women.
Protesters broke multiple segments of the short fence that separates the light rail from Jaffa Street.
Other protesters, including many younger boys and teenagers, sat down on the adjacent Sarei Yisrael Street, blocking the flow of traffic; some people leaned against cars and buses, which were forced to halt. A cab driver got out and argued with protesters, who then let him through.
A protest sign read “Stop the oppression of the religious minority in Israel” in English.
The air was thick with the stench from a spray that smelled like skunk that police shot at protesters to get them out of the road.
There wasn’t just conventional protesting – a large circle dance broke out in the middle of the Jaffa-Nordau intersection as the men sang “Asher Bachar Banu” (The One who chose us) and other Hebrew folk songs.
One car made it through the fray with the help of police. However, protesters banged on the car, opening its doors and trunk and yelling at the driver.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.
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