Nearly 60 ultra-Orthodox draft protesters were arrested on Monday and Tuesday for rioting in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.The violence followed the recent arrest of two members of the Jerusalem Faction, an extremist haredi organization that opposes ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the IDF.The group’s leader, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, has called on his followers to protest the arrests, as well as the High Court of Justice’s decision to strike down the law exempting haredi Jews from compulsory military service while they are studying in yeshivot. Video footage, taken at a Monday night protest in the capital, shows a police officer pulling his pistol, pointing it at violent haredi protesters, and saying, “Who wants a bullet?” The incident is under investigation.
In the video, the unidentified officer can be heard issuing the threat, holding the gun in his right hand, while walking aggressively toward a crowd of dozens of protesters at the intersection of Sarei Israel Boulevard and Jaffa Road.Police said that when the officer arrived moments earlier, his SUV was besieged by protesters who rocked it back and forth and pelted it with objects while shouting insults. “During the riot by members of the ultra-Orthodox community, the officer’s vehicle was surrounded and blocked by a number of protesters who threw rocks at it, began rocking it and shouted at him,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.“For his own personal safety, he exited the vehicle and pulled out his gun, which at no time was fired,” he continued. “Ten arrests were made of people throwing rocks and blocking roads and the light rail.”Nevertheless, on Tuesday police issued a statement saying that the officer was summoned before his commanders shortly after the incident, to explain the circumstances that led to the threat.“The incident is being looked into,” said Rosenfeld.On Tuesday afternoon, another draft riot took place in Bnei Brak, a largely ultra-Orthodox city east of Tel Aviv, where 40 haredim were arrested for throwing rocks and blocking roads.Rosenfeld said the protesters gathered at a major junction just after 1 p.m. and proceeded to halt traffic and pelt police vehicles with rocks.Hours later, rioting resumed in Jerusalem on Jaffa Road, near the light rail by the western entrance to the capital, resulting in clashes and eight more arrests of haredim who blocked streets.“Police units continue to respond to illegal demonstrations in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak by ultra-religious individuals,” Rosenfeld said on Tuesday night. “Police patrol units have arrested 18 demonstrators in Jerusalem and 40 in Bnei Brak for blocking roads and causing disturbances.Police units will continue responding to any incidents or illegal demonstrations in cities or at major highways,” he added.The investigation of the officer who pointed his gun at the demonstrators on Monday night follows allegations of police brutality in last month’s violent clash between police and haredi protesters during another anti-conscription confrontation in Jerusalem.At least three demonstrators were hospitalized after being kicked, punched and dragged by responding officers.That protest was organized by the fundamentalist, anti-Zionist group Eda Haredit, after 40 ultra-Orthodox men, including the grandson of a prominent rabbi, were arrested for refusing to serve in the IDF.After video footage of the melee surfaced, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich condemned what they deemed excessive force by police as unacceptable, and called for an investigation. The Justice Ministry has opened that investigation.