Dozens of ultra-Orthodox Arrested for Protesting Jail Terms Given to Israeli Army Deserters

Hundreds from extremist Jerusalem faction demonstrate against jail sentences handed out to 11 of their members for deserting

Ultra-Orthodox protesters are arrested in Jerusalem after demonstrating against jail terms given out to ultra-Orthodox army deserters, November 19, 2017.
A. Cohen

Hundreds of protesters from an extremist ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem faction demonstrated in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak on Sunday evening against jail terms received by 11 of their members for army desertion.

Twenty-two protesters were arrested in Bnai Brak, as were 10 others in Jerusalem. In both places, demonstrators also expressed opposition to the conscription of ultra-Orthodox men to the Israel Defense Forces.

In Jerusalem, the protesters obstructed traffic not far from the western entrance to the city and brought light rail service to a halt. In Bnai Brak, protesters attempted to disrupt traffic at the major intersection of Rabbi Akiva Street and Jabotinsky Street.

"On orders from yeshiva head Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, in the near future, thousands of yeshiva students" will again set out to demand respect for the Torah," the faction said in a statement.

Sunday's protests were sparked by sentences of up to 90 days in prison for desertion from the IDF, handed out by the Jaffa military court. Many of those convicted had refused to come to army bases to arrange exemptions from military conscription provided to ultra-Orthodox draftees.

Some of the men who were sentenced had been detained at previous protests against the arrest of other army deserters, and were found to be wanted on suspicion of desertion only after their own arrests.