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Photo: Gil Yohanan
Recent Haredi protest against against draft bill
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Haredim plan mass rally to protest burden equality bill
Event organizer unsuccessfully try to recruit religious-Zionist rabbis as Bennett calls on MKs not to participate; entrance to Jerusalem, main streets in capital to be closed ahead of rally.

More than a hundred thousand ultra-Orthodox men are expected to participate in a massive demonstration scheduled to take place Sunday evening against the haredi enlistment bill.

 

 

All the central factions of the haredi public will gather Sunday near the International Conventions Center at the entrance to Jerusalem. Among haredim, the protest has already earned the title of "The Millions' Protest", but it is doubtful whether it will be attended by more than one or two hundred thousands.

 

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The main entrance to Jerusalem will be closed to private vehicles from noon Sunday and public transportation from 2 pm. Police urge citizens to refrain from reaching the area.

 

Map of blocked streets (Photo: Google maps)
Map of blocked streets (Photo: Google maps)

 

"I'll make do with 60 ribba (Yiddish for 10,000), which is 600,000 people," a senior haredi source involved with the protest told Ynet.

 

"This is the number of men who were present during the revelation of Mount Sinai when the Torah was given, and there is something especially symbolic when the same number of people come to pray, decry and protest the offences being made to the world of torah."

 

Recent Jerusalem protest; clashes and arrests were reported. (Photo: Gil Yohanan) (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Recent Jerusalem protest; clashes and arrests were reported. (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

 

The protest will not include any speeches. Instead it will include protest prayers, and send a clear political message to the government. Ahead of the mass rally, the event's organizers are trying to recruit several rabbis identified with the Bayit Yehudi party and the national-religious sector in bid to expand the protest to the religious-Zionist sector.

 

With that, the haredim seek to show that the changes planned by the Shaked Committee for the haredi yeshivot are unacceptable even on the parts of the public represented by Naftali Bennett's party in the Knesset.

 

Meanwhile, several national-religious rabbis and Bayit Yehudi MK Motti Yogev have already said they would take part in the rally, but Saturday night Economy Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett called on his party members to refrain from attending the protest, saying that the enlistment bill is good for the nation.

 

Bennett explained: "You won't find any mention of criminal sanctions in the bill. Those who shout that there is a need to speak up, know that no yeshiva student will be sent to jail. The bill is fair. Military service is not an edict, it's a mitzvah (commandment of the Jewish law)."

  

Among the rabbis expected to attend are the head of the national-religious yeshiva Mercaz HaRav, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira; the head of the religious-Zionist Har Hamor yeshiva, Rabbi Tzvi Tau, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner from Bet El and the Safed rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu. Thirty rabbis have signed a petition calling others to join the rally, among them Rabbi Moshe Levinger and the heads of the Hesder yeshivot.

 

"There is mainly a spiritual message here," Rabbi Eliyahu said on Thursday. "The heads of the religious-Zionist as well as thousands of Hesder yeshivot students will arrive at the rally to say loud and clear that no one desires criminal sanctions."

 

MK Motti Yogev, who will join the rally, said, "I did not ask anyone's permission to attend, we are not a dictatorship like the Yesh Atid party. Ofer Selach insists on spiting the haredim, and I feel it is my responsibility to protest that."

 

Rabbi Avraham Rubinstein, the secretary of the Degel HaTorah Council of Torah Sages, said that "several religious politicos approached me, who are writing an announcement for Zionist rabbis to call on their students to attend the rally. But the heads of the Zionist yeshivot told us they are afraid to sign the announcement because Bennett controls their budget and is sending them messages that they shouldn't sign."

 

Despite attempts to recruit Zionist rabbis, some in the haredi camp called to "take revenge" against the religious public. United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush told Kol Barama Radio that "there is an immense pressure that says 'lets boycott some of their factories. If this is how they behave towards the very basis of our existence, Torah studying, we will boycott some of the Judea and Samaria settlers' factories.'"

 

Inside the haredi community there were calls from rabbis on Thursday to attend the rally, and the community's leaders gave a rare permission for women to attend – but on separate streets. All boys from the ages of nine and older were also called to attend the rally.

 

The prayer rally was scheduled to start on Sunday at 4 pm, and organizers expect somewhere between 120-400 thousand haredim. The event's organizers met with police officials Thursday to discuss preparations for the rally, learning from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's funeral some six month ago, that was plagued with organizational failures.

 

As part of the lessons learned from the former chief Sephardic rabbi's funeral, the police has asked rally attendees not to climb on rooftops, antennas or balconies, to prevent these structures from collapsing, as happened several times during the funeral.

 

Police said thousands of police officers and Border Policemen, commanded by Maj.-Gen Yossi Fraynti, will be spread out from the early morning hours near the Central Bus Station and the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, where the rally is to take place.

 

The organizers said that police forces and crowd dispersal means will only be in areas around the rally, to maintain order.

 

Police will close the Route 1 entrance to Jerusalem at 2 pm Sunday, and main streets in the capital will also be closed. No private vehicles will be allowed to enter the area where the rally is to take place. The Jerusalem Central Bus Station will close at 2:30 pm, and the light rail will stop running in the city center at 1 pm.

 

Yaron Doron, Noam (Dabul) Dvir and Raanan Ben-Zur contributed to this report

 

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