At least 25 people were arrested as hundreds of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) extremists took to the streets of Bnei Brak and Jerusalem on Monday in protest against lengthy jail sentences given to yeshiva students who have avoided the military draft.Police used a skunk-water cannon and other physical methods to disperse the crowds.
Scores of Haredi men belonging to the extremist Jerusalem Faction group took to the streets of Bnei Brak to protest against long jail sentences handed out by a military court against yeshiva students who illegally evaded IDF service.The protesters blocked major roads and junctions. Traffic on Jabotinsky Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, was brought to a halt. Similar protests took place on Sunday night in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.“Thousands of yeshiva students are on their way to traffic arteries around the country with the clear intent to sanctify the name of Heaven and be imprisoned for a lengthy period of time,” the Jerusalem Faction said before the Sunday protests began. “Nothing will break their courageous spirit in their struggle against the decree of enlistment of yeshiva students.”The Jaffa Military Court sentenced 11 yeshiva students who failed to undertake the necessary bureaucratic process required to obtain an IDF service exemption to up to 90 days in prison. The Jerusalem Faction and its leader, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, have instructed yeshiva students associated with it not to cooperate in any way with the IDF or the Defense Ministry, leading to a situation in which hundreds of its students are now technically absent without leave and liable to arrest by the Military Police.Mainstream Haredi yeshiva students perform the requisite bureaucratic procedures to obtain their exemptions, and anyone who does so is promptly given an exemption.The stance of the Jerusalem Faction and its leadership is for the most part a tactic in the internal political divisions within the Ashkenazi Haredi non-Hassidic community, in which Auerbach lost a leadership battle with the current head of this community, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, in 2012 after the death of their previous leader, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.Its more hard-line stance of not cooperating with the IDF and Defense Ministry has helped the Jerusalem Faction carve out a political bloc, giving itself a specific identity around the rallying cry of fighting the state’s efforts to draft more Haredi men into the army.Claims by Auerbach and the heads of the Jerusalem Faction that Haredi men are being coercively drafted into the army are fallacious, and Haredi yeshiva students who apply for exemptions continue to receive them without hindrance.
Police suppress Haredi draft protests in Bnei Brak (Courtesy Radical Haredi Protest Group)