Hundreds Protest Arrest of Haredi Draft-dodger

The demonstrators are members of the relatively extreme 'Jerusalem faction' of the non-Hasidic Haredim led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach.

Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger
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Protester being arrested in Jerusalem Sunday evening.
Protester being arrested in Jerusalem Sunday evening.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger

After weeks of expressions of solidarity with Israel Defense Forces soldiers fighting in Gaza, the battle against the draft is returning to the ultra-Orthodox agenda, as hundreds of young Haredi men demonstrated last night to protest the arrest and imprisonment of a draft dodger from Ashdod.

The demonstrators are members of the relatively extreme “Jerusalem faction” of the non-Hasidic Haredim led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach.

Some 300 people were demonstrating at Jerusalem’s Bar-Ilan junction and blocking traffic to the adjacent neighborhood of Ramat Eshkol. Police arrested one demonstrator. There were also protests on the Geha Highway, at the Shilat junction near Modi’in Illit, in Beit Shemesh and in Ashdod.

Eliyahu Cohen, 20, had already been arrested once, around Passover, and was released in response to pressure from Haredi MKs. Now he’s been arrested again for desertion and is being held in Military Prison 6, where he awaits trial in military court.

According to the Hapeles newspaper, Cohen came to the draft board to arrange his military exemption but was informed that he had already been inducted, “And after he repeatedly refused the army’s demand to become a regular soldier, he was arrested for the ‘crime’ of refusing induction and his desire to study Torah,” the paper reported.

Cohen’s friends told Haaretz that he has been on a hunger strike in recent days and has the full support of the Jerusalem faction. “We must storm the entire world to cancel this terrible decree,” Auerbach was quoted as saying in Sunday’s Hapeles.

The IDF Spokesman responded, “The IDF handles the Haredi population in accordance with the parameters of the law. The security service candidate in question chose not to appear to arrange his status as required by law. Similarly, he did not produce certificates attesting to his being a yeshiva student. After evasion and desertion, for which he was jailed in the past, he was allowed to continue the induction process but when he refused he was jailed again.”

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