Nine haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rioters have been arrested so far during violent protests in Jerusalem on Sunday over the arrest and detention of the grandson of the grand rabbi of the Toldot Avraham Yitzhak hassidic community. Several hundred haredi protestors from the extremist communities in the capital took to the streets and blocked several junctions in the haredi neighborhoods, including on Sarei Yisrael, Shmagar and Yirmiyahu streets. Some of the protestors lay down in front of the traffic, shouted various insults at the police including calling male security personnel “Nazis” and female personnel “shiksas,” Yiddish for a non-Jewish woman and, according to the police, also threw stones at police personnel. Police and Border Police reacted strongly and in some cases violently to the protestors, with one video showing a protestor forcefully shoved over by a border policeman seemingly without cause.
Police personnel also dealt forcefully with the protestors lying arm in arm in the middle of the junctions, hauling them away, roughing them up and even beating them in order to successfully remove them from the junction. Water cannons were also deployed to disperse the crowds, although as in many similar protests they had little affect on the determined protestors. The latest riot is the latest in a long series of such protests against haredi enlistment to the IDF in general and in particular against the arrest of young haredi men from extremist factions for failing to perform the necessary bureaucratic procedures to get their military service exemptions. All full-time yeshiva students, the overwhelming majority of whom are haredi, are entitled to military service exemptions from the IDF, and the large majority report to the IDF enlistment offices when called up in order to obtain their exemption. A political breakaway group coupled with other extremist factions have in recent years instructed yeshiva students associated with them to refuse to even present themselves at the IDF enlistment offices to perform the required bureaucratic process to obtain the exemptions, and are automatically classed as deserters. In numerous occasions such men have been detained by the police for other misdemeanours, frequently in protests against haredi enlistment, and subsequently handed over to the military police and detained in military jail. Most recently, the grandson of the grand rabbi of one of these extremist groups, the hassidic Toldos Avraham Yitzhak sect, was detained two weeks ago by the military police for failing to report to the IDF enlistment office when called to do so, which led to Sunday’s riots. According to a statement from the office of Untied Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, he came to an arrangement with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman that the grand rabbi’s grandson would be released from prison for the upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday on Wednesday. The Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. In response to the video of the border policeman shoving the protestor to the ground, the police stated that “there were violent disturbances of the public order by hundreds of haredim who rioted, blocked central junctions attacked police, and disturbed the public order in the area.”The police said that as a result of the stone throwing, seven policemen were injured and required medical attention. “In response, the police were required to use methods to disperse the riots and to arrest nine rioters, while trying to prevent the continuation of the violent and illegal demonstration and the blocking of the traffic arteries,” said the police in a statement to the media. The statement added that the incident in the video appeared to show that “force was used which was not necessary for enforcement,” and that the incident would be passed on to the police’s department for investigating police personnel to evaluate if disproportionate force was used.
Scenes from an ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem, September 17, 2017 (Credit: Yisroel Cohen)