Haredi youth beat-up ultra-Orthodox soldier in J'lem

Second assault of its kind in past month; police say attacks likely stem from haredi anger over mandatory IDF service.

Haredi IDF soldiers Tal Law 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout .)
Haredi IDF soldiers Tal Law 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout .)
In the second assault of its kind in three weeks, police say several ultra-Orthodox youth attacked a haredi conscript Sunday night as he drove through a religious neighborhood in the capital.
According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the attack took place in the Bukharan Quarter, where the unidentified victim’s car was converged upon by several religious youth who obstructed the vehicle, dragged him outside and proceeded to beat him.
“A number of haredi youth blocked the soldier’s car from the front, threatened him and then dragged him out of the vehicle and attacked him,” Rosenfeld said Monday. “They then tore off his yarmulke and fled the scene when police arrived.”
Rosenfeld said the soldier sustained minor injuries during the assault and was subsequently treated at a nearby hospital. He has since been released.
Sunday’s assault follows a similar attack a few weeks ago in the capital’s Mea She’arim neighborhood, when dozens of haredim attacked two uniformed ultra-Orthodox IDF soldiers walking in the neighborhood, resulting in the hospitalization of both victims.
Police said no arrests have been made in either case.
“This is already the second incident of a haredi soldier being attacked in a religious neighborhood by other haredim in a few weeks,” said Rosenfeld. “Police are looking for a connection between the two [cases] in an ongoing investigation and hope to make arrests soon.”
The pattern of assaults has escalated since a May antidraft protest carried out by the ultra-Orthodox organization Eda Haredit turned violent in front of Jerusalem’s IDF recruiting office in Romema, when haredi protesters threw rocks, glass bottles and other objects at police.
Tensions have been further enflamed following the Peri Committee recommendations, released Wednesday by Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri, stating that obligatory military service will be mandatory by 2017 for all Israelis, including haredim.
Rosenfeld said he believed the assaults have all been precipitated by haredi anger over the government mandate that ultra-Orthodox Jews commit to military service.
Indeed, a number of haredi soldiers from the IDF’s sole ultra-Orthodox combat unit, the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, expressed frustration regarding being shunned by their respective communities during the unit’s latest swearing-in ceremony last month.
“I think [haredi anger] is not justified,” said Tzvika Gedalovitz, who served in the unit. “There are those who should study Torah, but some, like me, want to join the army to contribute to their country and be part of Israeli society because when they only study, they’re closed off to the world.”
Another soldier from the unit, who requested anonymity, said he believed that haredi fears of assimilation and independence of thought are the driving forces behind the attacks.
“I think what scares the more traditional within haredi society is that these soldiers think for themselves and have succeeded,” he said.