Ultra-Orthodox protest against military service

2017-03-29 07:26
Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem have taken part in a protest against Israeli army conscription. (Oded Balilty, AP)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem have taken part in a protest against Israeli army conscription. (Oded Balilty, AP)

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Jerusalem - At a time of increased tensions between some Jews and Israeli authorities, thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against compulsory military service

The protesters dressed in the dark suits and hats typical of the ultra-Orthodox community held signs, including those saying "the state of Israel persecutes Jews".

Closed world

Rabbis addressed the crowd, sometimes in Yiddish, while police deployed heavily in the area.

The protest was organised by particularly hardline ultra-Orthodox who completely reject the Israeli state.

Military service, two years and eight months for men and two years for women, is compulsory for most Jewish Israelis.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews represent about 10% of the Israeli population and live in compliance with a strict interpretation of Jewish laws.

Some of them view military service as a source of temptation for young people who then leave the closed world of prayer and religious study.

The ultra-Orthodox are exempt if studying in yeshiva religious schools, though the issue is controversial with secular Israelis and attempts have been made to remove the exemption.

Regardless, they must register at the recruitment office but some, inspired by rabbis hostile to any co-operation with the Israeli authorities, refuse to and are considered deserters.

Significant influence

Last month there were major protests in ultra-Orthodox areas across Israel, with more than 30 people arrested.

There were also renewed tensions on Monday, when police arrested 22 ultra-Orthodox suspected sex offenders whose alleged crimes were known to their insular communities but concealed from the authorities.

Less hardline ultra-Orthodox Jews participate in Israeli politics and wield significant influence.

Ultra-Orthodox politicians have often acted as kingmakers in Israeli politics and a number of them currently form part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel

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