Charedi protesters block motorway and say they would rather ‘die’ than enlist

Some strictly-Orthodox protesters called the police ‘Nazis’


Police try to shift strictly-Orthodox protesters from Route 4 on Sunday

Hundreds of Charedim blocked a motorway near Bnei Brak, east of Tel Aviv, for several hours on Sunday in protest over the growing pressure for the strictly Orthodox to serve in the IDF.

Demonstrators could be seen dancing and sitting in the middle of an intersection on Route 4.

Some held signs reading, “We tell the High Court – we’ll go to jail over the army” and “We will die and not enlist”, Times of Israel reported.

Some protesters reportedly called police officers “Nazis” during the demonstration.

One border policewoman was filmed kicking a protester who was sitting on the road.

Other Charedi protesters in Petah Tikva blocked the light rail route in the town, temporarily shutting down the transportation system.

The protests had been organised by the Jerusalem Faction, an extremist strictly-Orthodox group that has around 60,000 members. It regularly demonstrates against enlistment of yeshivah students.

Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party believes the wartime government has an obligation to promote legislation that would introduce mandatory service for Orthodox men.

The hot potato of Charedi conscription came up in February when Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara said in her response to the High Court of Justice that if primary legislation for exempting Charedim from conscription was not advanced by April, the state would be required to begin conscripting them.

Currently, the exemption for Charedim is in effect due to a Cabinet resolution dating back to last summer. It froze the issue with a view to advancing legislation on the matter, but the decision is set to expire at the end of March. For its part, the government did not advance the issue due to the ongoing war in Gaza.

It complicates things for Netanyahu, Religious Zionism Party leader Bezalel Smotrich and Otzma Yehudit Party head Itamar Ben-Gvir. On the one hand, their voters demand that Charedim share the burden of service in light of the war; on the other, all three want to maintain coalition unity and not clash with the Charedi parties.

Senior government officials believe that they will try to delay the Charedi conscription issue again, whether by requesting an extension from the High Court or by finding a legal construct through the authority of the defense minister, thereby leaving the situation as is.

Another possibility is to reach a compromise with the Charedim. One option is to raise their conscription quotas in law, but such a solution would fail to satisfy the anger among Israelis who have demanded equality of burden and are unwilling to accept the increased burden on sectors already bearing it for years.

Senior coalition members admit that even without a change in haredi conscription, the law to extend the mandatory service for other sectors will eventually pass, because it is an important and urgent military need.

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