Haredi Leader Calls for Nationwide Protests Over Arrest of Yeshiva Draft-dodger

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Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, the Jerusalem-based leader of what is considered an extreme wing of the non-Hasidic Lithuanian Haredi community, has ordered the staging of several simultaneous demonstrations throughout the country on Wednesday to protest the arrest of a yeshiva student for draft evasion.

The demonstrations are to take place at 6:30 P.M. near the Bridge of Strings at the western entrance to Jerusalem; at the Coca-Cola junction in Bnei Brak; at the Shilat junction; and in Ashdod, Beit Shemesh and Elad.

Yaakov Yisrael Paz, an Elad resident who studies in an Ashdod yeshiva, was arrested Monday in his hometown for not reporting to the Israel Defense Forces draft office on the date he was summoned, even to ask for a deferral. He was quickly sentenced to 10 days’ imprisonment in Military Prison No. 6.

Over the past year, Auerbach has instructed hundreds of yeshiva students not to report to the draft offices, even to arrange a deferral based on their full-time Torah study. The IDF has prosecuted only a handful of them. Auerbach spoke to Paz on the phone after his arrest and told him that he is “an emissary of the Jewish people.”

Auerbach had previously ordered such simultaneous demonstrations on February 6, when another yeshiva student was arrested under similar circumstances. He had originally called the protests for yesterday, but permits for all the demonstrations could not be arranged in time.

According to Hapeles, the newspaper published by Auerbach’s followers, “This disgraceful arrest shocked the Torah world everywhere, with rabbis and public figures expressing their shock and protest at the brutal behavior of officials who are harassing the Torah world with great cruelty, and even the days of Purim could not pass without their repeated attempts to undermine and disturb the paths of the holy yeshiva students.”

Ultra-Orthodox protest against Haredi enlistment in the IDF, Jerusalem. Credit: Shiran Granot

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