Photo: Chaim Goldberg
Ultra-Orthodox protestors
Photo: Chaim Goldberg
Calm not expected to last between police and ultra-Orthodox
Despite current, relative 'calm' between security forces and Haredi groups protesting IDF conscription law, tensions are rising and will continue to rise with each interaction between the two groups.
Despite months of unrest and protests against ultra-Orthodox men being drafted into the IDF, the months of July and August are bringing a period of relative calm.



Ultra-Orthodox extremist groups are rushing to declare victory, claiming, "The message has trickled down. Haredi soldiers are no longer passing through here (Mea Shearim)." However, moderate elements aren't convinced and claim, "The police used a heavy hand against attackers and they have relaxed."


Ultra-Orthodox protestors and the police


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Police and ultra-Orthodox protestors
Police and ultra-Orthodox protestors


The leaders of the protests and unrest against the conscription law—which have including the burning of effigies dressed as IDF soldiers, physical attacks and intimidation—are the Jerusalem-based Lithuanian Faction.


Officially, while some have reservations about physically attacking soldiers, the faction's leader, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, stated that it was permissible to attack and humiliate Haredi soldiers.


Rabbi Avraham Boimel, a central figure in the Jerusalem Faction and a close associate of Auerbach, said that the goal of the protests was to make it clear that "there is no such thing as an ultra-Orthodox soldier."


Boimel blamed violent incidents on those wearing uniforms who entered their neighborhoods provocatively to prove to residents that a Haredi soldier is a legitimate thing. Boimel also blamed the police for provoking riots with their presence.


Photo: Israel Police
Photo: Israel Police


"Soldiers no longer pass there—and not because they are afraid, but because they realized it was not appropriate," said Boimel.


"This phenomenon has returned to its true dimensions, and no one hears any more about the riots, because sanity and the truth always prevail. The ultra-Orthodox public made its point: A soldier and an ultra-Orthodox Jew are two opposite things."


A source in the Jerusalem District Police said, "The policy of zero tolerance permeates to the other side. The same group of Haredim that are causing unrest realize that they will not achieve their goal through force. This policy also comes with the collection of evidence. We are not only arresting rioters, but we are also identifying where they're coming from by using security cameras."


The tough police policy is demonstrated not only by the amount of arrests, but also by the amount of indictments filed against rioters.



"Since the beginning of the protests, the State Attorney's Office has issued dozens of indictments against rioters. Intelligence activities will not stop, the policy of police dressing as soldiers will continue and the reality is that any ultra-Orthodox who wants to attack a soldier thinks twice," added the same police official.


Lt. Col. (res.) Rabbi Rami Ravad, former chief rabbi of the Air Force and one of the heads of the IDF's program to integrate Haredi soldiers into the IDF, believes that the wave of arrests targeting draft dodgers is what has inflamed tensions. Ravad pointed out that now that arrests have dropped, disturbances have followed suit.


However, the calm does not appear to be made to last long, as evidenced by the events of the previous two days.


Police received a call concerning a death in Mea Shearim and upon exiting the enclave, the patrol car was pelted with stones.


Photo: Israel Police
Photo: Israel Police


However, police understand that with each arrest for a failure to report to the IDF or with actions perceived as desecrating Shabbat, tensions can easily become combustible.


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