Police have removed hanging effigies of Charedi Orthodox soldiers from a Jerusalem neighbourhood.
The dummies, which had nooses round their necks, were displayed on streets in the Charedi district of Meah Sharim during the Purim celebration last weekend.
They were reportedly put up by members of Eida Haharedit, an extremist Charedi group which refuses to recognise the state of Israel and opposes Orthodox enlistment in the military.
One dummy had a sign reading “hardak out” stuck to it, an offensive term meaning “simple-minded”.
Surrounded by jeering crowds, police removed the dummies and have said they will “take a hard line in investigating and prosecuting those involved in this incident.”
The harassment of Charedi soldiers began two years ago when some in the Orthodox community began using the term “hardakim” to refer to those who enlisted in the IDF.
Yehuda Meshi Zahav, the leader of Orthodox rescue organisation Zaka, said extremists had given the entire community a bad name.
“It began with shaming and has now come to the burning of effigies,” he told Arutz Sheva news. “This is a disgraceful act. The Charedim who enlist are risking their lives for the people of Israel.”
Charedim have a tradition of refusing to serve in the military and were legally exempt from serving so they could study Torah. However, in 2014 a hotly contested draft law limited deferments for full-time yeshivah school students and a number of new all-Charedi units have formed to allow soldiers to maintain their traditions while serving in the military.
Earlier this month, a letter from Eida Haharedit’s rabbis called on Charedi parents not to allow their children to dress up in soldier or police costumes during Purim.
“We are currently dealing with the wicked decree forcing Jewish boys to be drafted into the IDF and enter the army and National Service melting pot,” they wrote. “We will estrange ourselves from soldiers and police officers and all they stand for.”
According to a poll by the Seker K’Halaha agency last month 78 per cent of Charedim say they could never agree to their son serving in the IDF.
However, according to the Charedi news site Kikar Hashabbat residents of Meah Sharim objected to the dummies hanging in their neighbourhood.
“Besides being in bad taste this is incitement to murder and harm Charedi soldiers. This is absolutely unacceptable, no matter what,” said an anonymous haredi resident quoted by Kikar Hashabbat.