A day before the Tal Law is set to expire, activists demanding a universal IDF draft arrived in Bnei Brak on Tuesday to give out flowers and leaflets urging the ultra-Orthodox sector to shoulder the burden of army service.
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Response to the activists' efforts was unenthusiastic; some residents of the predominantly haredi central Israeli city tore the faux draft summons and threw the flowers away.
"Why did you come here?" one haredi youth asked the protesters. "To provoke us?"
Protesters and haredim in Bnei Brak (Photo: Amir Levy)
When the protest turned tumultuous, the activists, who belong to the Suckers Camp movement, had to double back.
"Where did you serve?" a young ultra-Orthodox man, Moshe, asked Idan Miller, a leader of the protest movement. When the latter answered that he served at Army Radio, Moshe sneered at him.
"You're a sucker, believe me," Moshe said. "Even Yair Lapid contributed more than you. What did you contribute at your air-conditioned (office)? If you would have worked for a media channel, at least you would have made some money."
100 soldiers for 100 Torah students
Chaim, another ultra-Orthodox youth, offered a compromise.
"For every 100 soldiers that you bring to study the Torah, we'll send 100 haredi guys to the army," he said, stipulating that the secular troops would first have to manage a month-long period of bible study.
Other members of the ultra-Orthodox community chose to yell at the protesters, accusing them of deserting the Torah and urging them to "go back home to northern Tel Aviv." Others yet opted to throw objects and fruit at journalists covering the protest.
"We've come here today because the law will change tomorrow morning, and every 18-year-old Israeli citizen will be obligated to serve in the army," said Miller, the organizer. "We come here to today to give out flowers and 'draft summons,' in which we call on our haredi brothers to become part of the people who shoulder the burden in the army, the police, at the hospitals and in the education system, where you can become part of the (experience) that we call being an Israeli.
"We think that everyone should enlist, every 18-year-old Israeli citizen," he said.
Some of the residents asked Miller whether he gave out flowers and leaflets to Arab citizens as well; Miller replied that he visited the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm last week.
Tuesday's protest served as a precursor to a mass rally that is set to take place in Tel Aviv on Saturday. The rally is expected to integrate the movement demanding universal army service with the social protest movement.
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