500 ultra-Orthodox Anti-draft Protesters Block Entrance to Jerusalem

The 'Jerusalem Faction' urged its members to demonstrate against the arrest of Meir Burdiansky when a routine police check of driver’s licenses in Ma’aleh Adumim revealed that he was a draft dodger

Israeli police uses water cannons as ultra-Orthodox Jews block the entrance to Jerusalem during a military draft protest. March 8, 2018.
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Some 500 members of an extremist ultra-Orthodox faction blocked the entrance to Jerusalem Thursday evening to protest the arrest of a yeshiva student who was dodging the draft.

The protest caused massive traffic jams, and police sent a large force to keep order.

The “Jerusalem Faction” urged its members to demonstrate against the arrest of Meir Burdiansky when a routine police check of driver’s licenses in Ma’aleh Adumim revealed that he was a draft dodger.

“We’re continuing in the path of our rabbis, who ordered us to shake the entire world,” the faction’s Committee to Save the Torah World said. “It is now incumbent on each and every person to go out and join the mass protests.”

The demonstration is the Jerusalem Faction’s first major test following the death of its spiritual leader, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, two weeks ago. The faction set up a Council of Torah Sages to provide leadership after his death, but over the past day, serious disagreements have erupted among its members after Auerbach’s younger brother, Rabbi Azriel Auerbach, spoke out against the demonstrations his brother instigated.

“I’ve opposed all these demonstrations from the start,” he said on a leaked recording that was made public. “I don’t think it’s good for our boys. I’m certainly not of the same opinion as Rabbi Shmuel, who had a fire burning within him.”

Azriel Auerbach said he was fine with yeshiva students protesting by studying Torah outside the jail, “but in the streets? Clashes break out. We don’t need boys to be fighting with the police.”

One of the faction’s other rabbis, in contrast, told his students it was vital to attend Thursday’s demonstration.

“You have to understand that the value of today’s demonstration outweighs that of all other demonstrations,” Rabbi Asher Deutsch said. “Everyone understands that the secular people, and even people close to us, are sitting and watching: Look, their leader has gone to heaven, the community will grow weaker. Today, therefore, it’s an absolute obligation to show that the yeshiva head has gone to heaven, but his instructions remain, and the public will continue down the path he showed them.”