Mass ultra-Orthodox protest brings traffic to a halt
Hundreds of Haredi demonstrators pour onto the streets of Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and elsewhere in protest against the imprisonment of an ultra-Orthodox soldier who deserted from the IDF; central roads see heavy congestion as police attempt to drag the protesters from the sites to calls of ‘Nazis’ and ‘murderers’; a soldier was seen spraying protesters with pepper spray; 31 arrested so far.
Masses of ultra-Orthodox poured onto the streets on Thursday afternoon in an effort to block traffic on main throughways throughout the country in protest against the continued detention of a yeshiva student who deserted the IDF and has been jailed in a military prison.
In an effort to forestall the blocking of Highway 4 and other central roads, riot police were deployed at key junctions and streets through the traffic-filled hours to ensure undisturbed access.
Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, the leader of the Yerushalmi branch, has ordered his people to cease the country-wide protests, after having lost control over them, and focus on one central protest to take place Thursday night on route 4, near Aluf-Sade interchange.
Rioting has resumed on Rabbi Akiva Street in Bnei Brak. Haredim are blocking the street and singing songs of faith. The police are still in the area. A soldier was seen spraying protesters with pepper spray.
But despite that, protesters managed to block the Bar Ilan junction in Jerusalem just minutes after the protest got underway by dancing on the road, bringing traffic to a complete standstill.
Protesters ignored police instructions to clear the road and, leading police officers to charged them minutes after the protest had begun.
Several of the ultra-Orthodox protesters were dragged off the road, shouting at police: "Murderers, Nazis."
Some of the protesters hurled small rocks at the police officers, and one protester also hurled a stun grenade.
Police arrested 31 protesters and eventually managed to clear the road.
Dozens of Haredi protesters also blocked Shivtei Israel Street in the capital.
In Beit Shemesh, several dozens of protesters block Nahar HaYarden Street in the city. Police arrested two protesters and cleared the road, opening it back for traffic.
Protesters also blocked Rabi Akiva Street in Bnei Brak.
Highway 1's westbound lane was blocked near the Latrun Junction by some 30 protesters who got onto the road, but it was soon cleared and reopened for traffic.
Ahead of the protest, a threatening message was circulated in the extremist ultra-Orthodox circles, calling on them to join the protest: “On Thursday, at 3:30 in the afternoon , we will stage a huge protest and terrible protest, the likes of which of which are no longer seen, in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modiin Illit, Beitar, Elad, Ashdod. God’s salvation.”
Thursday afternoon's demonstration is merely the latest in a series of protests against the drafting of Haredim to the IDF and more specifically the arrest of the yeshiva student for military desertion.
On Tuesday night, 67 Haredi protesters were arrested during violent protests in several cities throughout the country, in which three policemen sustained light injuries.
The radical ‘Jerusalem faction’ of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox sect, which is responsible for the demonstrations, is a comparatively small faction in the Haredi sector. The central streams of the Haredi movement are opposed to the protest.