Forty ultra-Orthodox Jews Arrested After Protesting Arrest of IDF Draft Dodgers

Demonstrators block roads in Ashdod, protesting against arrest of four yeshiva students who failed to report to the IDF draft office.

Shirley Seidler

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men protested in several locations across Israel on Monday morning in protest over the arrests of four yeshiva students for desertion from the Israeli military. In Ashdod, where the protest took place without permit blocking a central intersection, confrontations broke out between protesters and police officers, resulting in the lightly injuring of one policeman and the arrest of 40 protesters. 

In Jerusalem protests took place in at least to locations, blocking roads until they were dispersed by the police. In Bnei Brak protesters burned garbage cans and the fire department was called in. A similar protest also took place in Hadera.

The protesters called for the immediate release of the jailed yeshiva students. The students were arrested last week after they failed to report to the Israel Defense Forces draft office. The students were following orders from Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, and failed to report to the draft office to receive exemptions from army service, to which they are entitled as yeshiva students.

On Sunday night, some of Auerbach's students held a similar protest in Jerusalem.

A spokesman for the Israel Police said that the police "allows for legitimate, protests authorized by law, unlike this demonstration. The police will continue to strictly enforce the law against those who act violently and disrupt the public order.

Like in similar incidents, the newspaper Hapeles, a mouthpiece for Rabbi Auerbach and his faction, is championing the protests. The demonstration was the newspaper's top headline on Monday morning, and included a quote from Auerbach, claimg that "all those who have the fear of God in their hearts is obligated" to protest.

The newspaper's editorial calls the four students the "emissaries of the entire Torah world, currently sitting on prison benches instead of their benches in the beit midrash." The editorial defends Auerbach's position, encouraging yeshiva students to refrain from reporting to the draft board to arrange their deferments, citing a "satanic plot" to increase the number of ultra-Orthodox draftees with a new law.