Hundreds of protests brought traffic to a grinding halt for two hours during the evening commute when they blocked the major junction at Yermiyahu-HaMem Gimel and prevented buses from entering or exiting the Central Bus Station in the city. They also blocked the Chords Bridge at the entry to the capital. The roads have all since been reopened.
Several of the protesters sat down at the center of the main highway leading into the capital and yelled out "Gevalt! We will die and not enlist."
The official reason offered by the zealots for the renewed demonstrations is the incidental arrest of a military draft dodger student from the prestigious Kol Torah yeshiva in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of the capital, who is also the grandson of a senior rabbi there, during a routine check carried out by a traffic policeman.
The man was was handed over to the military police, sparking an outrage among the faction that is being pounced upon as a pretext to exhibit its continued determination to resist conscription.
The sect’s followers are pouring into the streets en mass in a bid to demonstrate that their presence and strength has not diminished with the passing of their ardently anti-conscription 86-year-old rabbi.
On his orders over the past year, thousands of Haredi men would mob intersections, stopping traffic and scuffling with the public and police.
Organizers of the protest said that members of Council of Torah Sages—a forum of rabbis who have stepped in to fill the faction’s vacant leadership after Rabbi Auerbach’s passing—instructed that the crowds “make a noise that the world will hear” due to the arrest of the yeshiva student.
They also decreed that “the obligation at the moment is imposed on every single person to go out and participate in the mass protests.”
The Committee for Saving the World of Torah, which organizes the protesters, said Thursday's demonstrations "were only the beginning of a determined struggle that masses from the Haredi public are launching following the arrest of the prisoner of the Torah world Meir Bordiansky, who refused to show up at the recruiting office as his rabbis instructed. The struggle will continue at full force until the reinstatement of the law that exempts yeshiva students from enlistment, without conditions or recruitment goals."
The arrests of yeshiva students from time to time are not done because of their refusal to enlist to the IDF, as the existing draft law already allows them to continue their studies. They are branded as deserters because they refuse to show up at the recruiting office to receive their exemption from service or postponement.
Furthermore, the IDF's policy is not to initiate arrests of these deserters. Those who were arrested were first detained for other matters, such as traffic offenses or disturbing the peace in protests. They were then found to be draft dodgers. In such a situation, the civilian police had no choice but to turn them in to the military.
This is what causes the repeat outbreaks of demonstrations: Some protesters are arrested and found to be deserters, the demonstrations grow bigger, the arrests increase accordingly, and so the situation just continues escalating.