J'lem: Thousands of haredim protest enlistment

Children demonstrate in handcuffs, wave banners reading: "Mommy and daddy, save me from the draft's claws of destruction."

Haredi anti-Tal Law protest no-no-no 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Haredi anti-Tal Law protest no-no-no 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
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 service programs.
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 world.
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.”
The 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 army.”
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.
Children and 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 Kippur.
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 fought.
“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.”
Another 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.
“The 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.