'We lived through Hitler, we'll outlive you,' call Haredim protesting draft
Thousands of protestors oppose the mandatory Israeli draft to the IDF on Tuesday, with signs that decry what they feel is a threat to Jewish existence; Ultra-Orthodox leader Rabbi Auerbach calls to fight draft 'until the last drop of blood.'
Some ten thousand ultra-Orthodox protestors rallied on Tuesday in Jerusalem in opposition to the mandatory IDF draft.
"We lived through the Pharaoh, we lived through the Spanish Inquisition, we lived through Hitler, we'll outlive you," chanted the 10,000-strong protestors. "We'll fill the prisons the way we filled the Diaspora."
Tuesday's protest was one of several following the recent detention of a rabbi's son who refused to report to a draft office, among several young men belonging to the ultra-Orthodox Yerushalmi Sector, led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach.
Those who avoid the draft are considered defectors by the IDF and are hunted down accordingly. The Yerushalmi Sector arranged bus rides for thousands of protestors to the capital.
During the rally, protestors also passed around a petition with a power of attorney, as they plan to take it to the Hague, claiming the draft to be a human rights violation.
Ultra-Orthodox leaders said they serve Israel through religious study and prayer and fear integration in the army threatens their insular, pious lifestyle.
Rabbi Auerbach spoke at the protest, in what was his first public appearance during the current wave of clash between the sector and the IDF.
"This is the uprooting of all that is sacred and holy," said Auerbach in his speech. "Our job is to stand guard and not be swayed by any compromises or offers of facilitation." Mentioning that the IDF has begun to recruit young men from the yeshivas themselves, he added, "We cannot make peace with this reality."
Protestors arrived at the rally with signs that read "Joining the killing army—Under no circumstances" and "Yes to prison—No to the army." Others took a slightly different take, showing the picture of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman next to the pictures of such world dictators as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong-un. A speaker at the rally stated that the Israeli Army "abuses" its Haredi soldiers and makes them go through "the seven circles of hell," before adding that "these are forced labor camps, extermination camps!"
Referring to mainstream Haredim who do adhere to the mandatory draft, the speaker continued by saying "Shame on you, foul collaborators. Even hell has no place for you!" He added that "The IDF is the only army in the world that works to change its soldiers' ideology. There is nothing as deplorable in the whole world. The army's goal is to burn down the legacy and purity of the Israeli people."
Auerbach, for his part, has recently intensified his opposition to the draft. Last week, he called on his people to fight "until the last drop of blood," and during Tuesday's rally he joined anti-Zionist entities from within the Haredi community that refuse to recognize the State of Israel.
Draft privileges go back to when Israel's founders granted exemptions to a few hundred gifted students to help rebuild the schools of Jewish learning destroyed in the Holocaust. But numbers have ballooned dramatically since then.
Exemptions have bred resentment among Israel's secular majority, whose children mostly serve after high school.