Strictly Orthodox protestors clashed with police in Jerusalem on Sunday, with the security services using water cannon in an attempt to disperse crowds blocking the main entrance to the Israeli capital.
The latest demonstration by Charedi yeshiva students, which saw hundreds of young men blocking the roads and the city’s light-rail system, was against the jailing of 11 yeshiva students for dodging the Israeli draft. At least 36 of the demonstrators were arrested by the police.
The demonstrations were co-ordinated by the “Jerusalem Faction”, a minority group within the strictly Orthodox world, which has taken a more radical stance towards Charedi enlistment. While the majority of Israel’s Charedi community report to the IDF draft office to obtain the military service exemption permitted to yeshiva students, members of the Jerusalem Faction refuse to do this, and are subsequently arrested for draft dodging.
In a statement, the Faction said Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, its leader, had ordered the demonstrations “to protest for the dignity of the Torah, which has been ground into dust by the incarceration of… prisoners of the Torah world for extended periods.
“Last week, the Charedi masses took to the streets to protest, and hundreds were arrested and four more prisoners of the Torah world were handed over to the military authorities.”
Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, released a statement, saying: “The time has come to put an end to disrupting the lives of Jerusalem's residents”.
Although he stressed that “the right to demonstrate is sacred, when it is conducted within the law," he added: “Anyone violating the law for any reason needs to be dealt with firmly, and the police should use any means at their disposal to disperse illegal demonstrations."