Israeli police arrested 36 ultra-orthodox Jews during a Sunday protest in Jerusalem against the country’s ongoing military draft, which certain groups claim is in conflict with the Torah.
The demonstration is only the most recent in a string of protests since Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down a law exempting Orthodox Jews from military service in September. Those convicted of draft dodging are receiving sentences varying from 40 to 90 days in military prison. Hundreds of members of the Jerusalem Faction (JF) blocked streets and attempted to set fires to advocate for members who have been convicted, the Times of Israel reported.
Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who leads the JF, called on his fellow Haredi Jews to take to the streets “to protest for the dignity of the Torah, which has been ground into dust by the incarceration of 12 [sic] prisoners of the Torah world for extended periods.”
There are now nearly 40 ultra-orthodox Jews serving sentences in military prison for dodging the draft, and the number will only rise as protests continue. Many of the demonstrators are draft dodgers themselves, and police turn them over to military courts upon their arrest, triggering further protests.
Footage of the protest shows police spraying protesters with “skunk water,” a foul smelling substance intended to force demonstrators to disperse. the protesters blocked the main thoroughfare in and out of Jerusalem for more than an hour, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“The Haredi community will continue to protest at all times and in all places, against the trend of drafting yeshiva students, until the status quo is restored exempting yeshiva students from IDF service without condition and without enlistment targets,” the JF said in a statement.
“The draft decree undermines all the central principles of Judaism, and so it is the obligation of every individual in the Haredi public to go out and protest with all their strength against the decree,” Rabbai Auerbach said.
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