Israeli Soldier Extracted by Police From Angry Mob in ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem Neighborhood

Police called to Mea She'arim bookstore to protect Haredi soldier, who was surrounded and verbally assaulted.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews outside the recruitment office in Jerusalem.
Olivier Fitoussi

Police were forced to intervene Sunday in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She'arim, where an Israeli soldier in uniform was surrounded by locals in a book store and verbally assaulted by the crowd.

The soldier, a Jewish ultra-Orthodox man himself, was led out of the store by police officers and taken to a nearby police station, unharmed.

Such incidents occur in Jerusalem every few weeks. This particular case came after three weeks of protests by members of the extreme Lithuanian sect headed by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who is leading an ultra-Orthodox movement vehemently opposed to military service.

The current wave of protests, which culminated in a rally held last week in Jerusalem, broke out after a yeshiva student from the southern town of Ofakim was arrested for desertion. Only on Sunday, three weeks after the arrest, did the military court in Jaffa sentence him to 56 days in prison.

In an attempt to keep the issue on the agenda, Auerbach's sect wants to hold an event this week in honor of the yeshiva students who are refusing to show up at recruitment offices or to arrange for the postponement of service.

The Jerusalem Congress Center announced Sunday the cancellation of the contract with the sect for holding the conference out of fear of incitement and it is not clear where the conference will take place. Simultaneously with the attempts to foment opposition, the Auerbach sect announced that in the coming days it would try to disrupt traffic in the Ben Gurion Airport area.