His attackers are thought to be part of the small but vocal group of Haredi Jews who are angered by those within their own community who have broken with tradition and joined the Israeli army.
Shlomo Lipman – the son of Rabbi Dov Lipman, a former Knesset member from the centrist Yesh Atid party – had entered a book store in Mea She’arim when a group of young ultra-Orthodox Jews started congregating outside. They blocked the entrance and started shouting slurs at Lipman, including ״Nazi!”
According to Dov Lipman, employees of the bookstore – which specializes in religious texts – helped his son escape through a back entrance. But once he was outside, the gang spotted him and gave chase. “Thanks to several Hasidim from the neighborhood, he was eventually whisked out safely with the help of an ambulance, even though he wasn’t injured,” his father related.
The ambulance driver reported that stones had been hurled at the soldier, but Dov Lipman said his son had no recollection of being physically assaulted.
The 20-year-old soldier serves in the Golani Brigade, lives in the central Israel city of Beit Shemesh and is Modern Orthodox, not ultra-Orthodox. His father said he visited Mea She’arim – a famously Haredi neighborhood – because he happened to be in Jerusalem and was looking for a specific book he knew he could find there.
“He was aware in advance there might be issues walking around the neighborhood in his army uniform, but he never imagined something like this,” said Dov Lipman.
Before joining the army, Shlomo Lipman was the starting pitcher for the Israeli national baseball team, and was known among fans of the sport in Israel for pitching a no-hitter during the last Maccabiah Games in 2013.
His father served in the 2013-2015 Knesset as an unofficial representative of the U.S. immigrant community in Israel. His party did not win enough seats in 2015 for him to serve in the current Knesset, but Lipman hopes to make a comeback in the next election.
Meanwhile, the former lawmaker said that following his son’s ordeal, he has discussed with Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid the possibility of initiating legislation that would outlaw incitement against soldiers.
“I know we are dealing with the issue of freedom of speech here, but attacking soldiers in this country even verbally should be out of bounds,” Lipman said. Lapid’s party had campaigned in 2013 on getting more Haredim to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
Last week, anonymous posters were found on the walls of Mea She’arim calling on Haredi draftees to kill female soldiers and IDF commanders. Ultra-Orthodox soldiers often experience harassment within their communities, where fears exist that military service will draw them away from religious observance.