‘Severe violence’ as thousands of anti-draft demonstrators block traffic in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem. 12 protesters injured, 33 arrested
Thousands of anti-draft haredi protesters shut down traffic at major intersections in the predominantly haredi city of Bnei Brak in central Israel Monday evening with smaller protests in Jerusalem, following a series of demonstrations in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak Sunday night.
Organizers say the protests were planned following the recent arrest of haredi yeshiva students who had evaded the draft. Members of the Yerushalmi Faction said their spiritual leader, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, had called on supporters to “shake the whole world in the struggle for the honor of the Torah.”
The hard-line Yerushalmi Faction has urged yeshiva students not to recognize the IDF draft board’s authority to either conscript them or issue draft deferrals for active yeshiva students, instead calling on supporters to simply ignore draft orders.
As members of the Yerushalmi Faction have been arrested over the past year for failing to either report for duty or obtain draft deferments from the army, opponents of the draft law have organized road-blocking protests across the country, including a “day of rage” in October.
On Sunday, hundreds of protesters blocked the light rail line in Jerusalem, while demonstrators in Bnei Brak shut down traffic on Jabotinsky Street and Rabbi Akiva Street. Dozens of protesters were arrested, and operation of the light rail train suspended temporarily in the capital.
Protesters gathered in Bnei Brak again late Monday afternoon, blocking traffic on Hahalutzim and Jabotinsky streets and attempted to shut down Highway 4, one of Israel’s most-heavily used north-south traffic arteries.
Riot control police from the Yassam special patrol unit and mounted police units were deployed at the Geha Interchange on Highway 4 to prevent protesters from blocking traffic.
Demonstrators clashed with officers attempting to break up the protests, leaving at least a dozen civilians injured, along with several police officers. Authorities say 28 protesters have been taken into custody thus far in Bnei Brak.
Smaller protests were also reported in the capital, with several roads closed to traffic. Police have arrested five demonstrators in Jerusalem.
In a statement, Israel Police accused “haredi extremists” of engaging in “severe violence” in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, claiming that physically assaulted officers and hurled firecrackers.
“Israel police will act with determination and zero tolerance against any attempt to disturb public order, endanger passersby and road users, and disrupt the lives of residents,” the statement read.
By: David Rosenberg