Haredim violently clash with police, drivers in Jerusalem
Ultra-Orthodox leadership declares 'day of wrath' following arrest of two draft dodgers; protesters block J'lem roads, burn garbage bins; traffic near Modi'in blocked earlier, with 'Death before conscription' chants; protest now in its fourth day, with Haredi leaders decrying police's 'disproportionate response.'
In the fourth consecutive day of the ultra-Orthodox protests against the arrest of Haredi draft dodgers, thousands of demonstrators from the Jerusalem Faction blocked traffic in the capital for about three hours on Thursday afternoon, clashing violently with both police and other drivers.
At least 120 Haredim were arrested in protests in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.
The Haredim blocked major throughways across the city, including the Shabbat Square, the Sarei Israel-Yafo Street junction, the junction outside the International Convention Center, and the exit to Highway 1. Drivers passing by confronted the ultra-Orthodox demonstrators, with some forcefully driving through the angry mob.
The protesters set fire to garbage bins, chanted "Death before conscription" and waved signs saying, "Israel Police, let us demonstrate without turning us disabled," referencing the disabled protests some Haredi leaders have complained received much lighter treatment from police.
Earlier Thursday, members of the protest blocked traffic near Modi'in's Shilat junction, with protesters shouting slogans such as "Death before conscription" and "Prison before army service."
In Bnei Brak, some 70 Haredim blocked the road on the border of Rabbi Akiva and HaShomer streets. They were dispersed by police, with three members of the Jerusalem Faction arrested.
The Haredi struggle commenced following the arrest of two draft dodgers earlier this week, causing leaders to declare a "day of wrath," sparking numerous protests.
"We're demonstrating for just one thing: the State of Israel wants to desecrate us and for us to no longer be Haredi. We'll fight with every fiber of our being; we'd accept death before transgression on this. We'll fight to our last drop of blood. We will not give up. We'll die before joining the army," said Moshe Cohen, a yeshiva student from Hadera.
On Wednesday, six people were arrested in Jerusalem for trying to prevent an Israel Prison Service vehicle from transporting the arrested ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers to the military police.
Dozens of ultra-Orthodox members of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach's extremist Jerusalem Faction arrived at the Magistrate's Court in Jerusalem and gathered around an IPS vehicle that led detainees to The Russian Compound Interrogation Center and Prison, in an attempt to prevent its departure.
A police force dispersed the protesters and allowed the vehicle to continue on its journey.
After three hours of demonstrating near the court, some 200 Haredi protesters moved to demonstrating on Jerusalem's Bar Lev road, while also disrupting the light rail's traffic for a time.
In addition, three protesters were arrested in the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim after failing to comply with police instructions to clear the road they were blocking.
In Tuesday's protest in Bnei Brak, some 40 Haredi protesters were arrested after assaulting officers and disturbing the peace on the city's roads. Simultaneous protests were also held in Jerusalem, where some 100 protesters blocked the Jaffa-Sarei Israel junction and 17 were arrested.
This week's ultra-Orthodox protests were sparked by the arrest of two Jerusalem Faction yeshiva students, who returned from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem and were flagged down for routine check by police. When the officers ran their names, they found they were defectors from the army.
The demonstrations were also called to protest the 20-day term in military prison handed down to two draft dodgers.
Numerous claims have been made by Haredi figures purporting their protest has received a harsher treatment by police, compared to their attitude towards the disabled protesters, for instance.
Rabbi Avraham Mancks, speaker for the Committee to Save the World of Torah, said protests against the Conscription Law and the High Court's rulings on it have received disproportional treatment.
"We're being treated differently than other sectors with absolute certainty, there's no doubt about it. That different attitude is expressed by documents, arrests, the use of water cannons, violence and even drawing weapons," he said.