Dozens of members of an extremist utlra-Orthodox faction blocked a major interchange near the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak and confronted police Monday in protest of the arrest of a yeshiva student over draft dodging.
The yeshiva student in question was arrested last week when police pulled his car over for a random routine check. After discovering he was a deserter, the officers transferred him to the Military Police.
The issue of drafting yeshiva students made headlines again in the past few weeks after a bill that would exempt them from being drafted into the Israeli military caused a coalition crisis, which may even lead to early elections.
Last Thursday, some 500 members of the same faction, the so-called Jerusalem Faction, blocked the entrance to Jerusalem in protest of the student’s arrest, causing major traffic jams. The faction is considered among the most extremist of the ultra-Orthodox Haredim.
The demonstration was the faction’s first major test after the death of its spiritual leader, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, last month. The new leaders called on their followers to come out en masse and demonstrate to continue in Auerbach’s footsteps.
While most Haredi yeshiva students are willing to appear at recruitment offices to ask for and receive repeated deferments for their military service, Auerbach instructed his followers not to appear at the enlistment offices – even if only to receive a deferment or exemption. Occasionally these yeshiva students have been caught, usually when stopped for traffic or other minor offenses, and jailed after being after being identified as deserters.