Ultra-Orthodox Israelis’ protest against compulsory military service turns violent in Jerusalem

2016


  • Protests by ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israelis turned violent on Sunday. Police said protesters threw rocks and attacked the car of an ultra-Orthodox Cabinet minister. Cannons filled with skunk-scented water and police mounted on horses were used to disperse the crowd.
  • The ultra-Orthodox men were protesting against a Supreme Court order allowing them to be drafted into the military.
  • Military service is compulsory for most people in Israel, but politically powerful ultra-Orthodox parties have won exemptions that allow them to skip military service and instead study in religious seminaries. This arrangement has bred resentment among the broader public.

Thousands of Jewish ultra-Orthodox men clashed with Israeli police in central Jerusalem on Sunday during a protest against a Supreme Court order for them to begin enlisting for military service.

The landmark decision last week ordering the government to begin drafting ultra-Orthodox men could lead to the collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition as Israel wages war in Gaza.

Tens of thousands of men rallied in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood to protest the order. But after nightfall, the crowd made its way toward central Jerusalem and turned violent.

GAZA MILITANTS FIRE ROCKETS INTO ISRAEL AS TANK ADVANCES INTENSIFY IN NORTH AND SOUTH

Israeli police said protesters threw rocks and attacked the car of an ultra-Orthodox Cabinet minister, pelting it with stones. Water cannons filled with skunk-scented water and police mounted on horses were used to disperse the crowd. But the demonstration was still not under control late Sunday.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against Israel's Supreme Court decision that ordered the government to begin drafting ultra-Orthodox men into the army.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men burn trash during a protest against army recruitment in Jerusalem on June 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Military service is compulsory for most Jewish men and women in Israel. But politically powerful ultra-Orthodox parties have won exemptions for their followers to skip military service and instead study in religious seminaries.

The long-standing arrangement has bred resentment among the broader public, a sentiment that has grown stronger during the eight-month war against Hamas. Over 600 soldiers have been killed in fighting, and tens of thousands of reservists have been activated, upending careers, businesses and lives.

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Ultra-Orthodox parties and their followers say forcing their men to serve in the army will destroy their generations-old way of life. Earlier Sunday, thousands of men crowded a square and joined in mass prayers. Many held signs criticizing the government, with one saying “not even one male” should be drafted.

The ultra-Orthodox parties are key members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition and could potentially force new elections if they decide to leave the government in protest.

Party leaders have not said whether they will leave the government. Doing so could be risky, with Netanyahu’s coalition’s popularity lagging since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that sparked the war.



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