Haredim protest in Beit Shemesh against arrests of yeshiva students

Students arrested for failing to report for military duty; members of extremist Haredi factions took to the streets Sunday.

Haredi protest arrest of yeshiva student 370 (photo credit: Yisrael Cohen/Kikar HaShabbat)
Haredi protest arrest of yeshiva student 370
(photo credit: Yisrael Cohen/Kikar HaShabbat)
Haredi extremists protested violently in Beit Shemesh on Sunday against the ongoing detention of a yeshiva student for failing to report for military duty and the arrest of a second haredi man for the same reason.
It emerged on Sunday that Mordechai Kennig, aged 18 and a resident of Neveh Ya’acov in Jerusalem, was arrested last Wednesday and detained at the IDF’s Prison 6, near Atlit, south of Haifa.
Kennig is a yeshiva student in Kfar Hassidim near Haifa and adheres to the rulings of hard-line haredi leader Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who has instructed yeshiva students not to present themselves to IDF enlistment offices when called by the army.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office would not confirm Kennig’s arrest.
On December 1 a yeshiva student named Moshe Elashvilli was arrested in Kiryat Malachi for failing to present himself at an IDF enlistment office.
In response to the continued detention of Elashvilli, and possibly to the news of Kennig’s arrest, members of extremist haredi factions resident in Beit Shemesh took to the streets Sunday afternoon to protest.
Several hundred haredi residents attempted to block the main Nahar Hayarden road in Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet.
Police arrived swiftly at the scene to disperse the protesters, but the confrontation became violent and four haredim were arrested for attacking policemen and disturbing the peace, the police announced.
“This is clearly a continuation of the tensions within the haredi community over service in the IDF,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. “Police are prepared in all haredi neighborhoods to prevent future disturbances.”
The majority of haredi yeshiva students currently report to IDF enlistment offices when instructed to do so but do not sign any documents.
As a result, several hundred haredi men have received enlistment dates over the past year but the Defense Ministry has so far canceled all of them because of pending government legislation on the matter.
However, a small but hardline grouping of the mainstream non-hassidic haredi community, known as the Jerusalem faction and led by Rabbi Auerbach, has instructed yeshiva students not to even report to IDF enlistment offices when called to do so.
It is the refusal to present themselves to the IDF for preliminary processing that has led the military police to arrest the two yeshiva students currently detained at Prison 6.
There are in all likelihood dozens if not hundreds of yeshiva students connected to the Jerusalem faction or who adhere to Auerbach’s rulings who have refused to go to the enlistment offices when called.
Although the haredi media reported last week that the arrest last Sunday of Elashvilli was the first for refusing to report to the IDF, The Jerusalem Post understands that there have been several such arrests over the last six months.
As with Elashvilli, those yeshiva students who are detained are imprisoned by the army for several days.
Most of them subsequently consent to preliminary processing by the IDF, although some have continued to refuse and have been sent back to prison before ultimately agreeing to the first stage of the enlistment process.
It is unclear why arrests conducted earlier this year did not lead to the kind of protests being conducted by the hard-line haredi factions.
Yishaiyahu Wein, a senior figure in the Jerusalem faction, said that the arrest of the two haredi yeshiva students proved that “no power in the world will succeed in breaking the Torah World.”
“We have survived persecution for thousands of years. Sadly, this time the persecutors are our own brothers and flesh and part of the Jewish people, but we will overcome them as well,” said Wein.
He explained Auerbach’s position on the issue, saying that the rabbi and his faction “do not recognize any power as able to determine what yeshiva students should do other than their rabbis.”