Ultra-Orthodox Protesters Threaten to Disrupt Jerusalem Marathon on Friday

Arrest of ultra-Orthodox draft dodger causes ire among Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach's Lithuanian faction, who threaten to disrupt the 30,000 runners expected to participate.

Haredi men block road in anti-draft protest, Jerusalem, March 2017.
Emil Salman

Approximately 30,000 runners from Israel and across the globe are expected to participate in the Jerusalem marathon on Friday morning, though not everyone turning up tomorrow will be there to cheer them on.

Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach's ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian faction has threatened to disrupt the marathon following the arrest of a yeshiva student for ignoring his military draft order. 

The student, Yisrael Meir Toledano, was arrested earlier this week at his home in Ofakim after failing to verify his status as a yeshiva student at the military recruitment office. Yeshiva students are often exempted from military service upon presentation of proof of their enrollment at a seminary. Auerbach's supporters, however, often refuse to take the necessary bureaucratic steps.

Protesters demonstrated at a number of junctions in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak on Wednesday, causing a number of road closures. Jaffa's military court today extended Toledano's detention until Monday.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest against the military draft, Jerusalem, March 2017.
Emil Salman

"Thousands of yeshiva students from all over the country will arrive tomorrow to Jerusalem in order to block the city's passages and torpedo the marathon," followers of Rabbi Auerbach said Thursday.

Israel Police said they will act "with a heavy hand and with all the means at their disposal against anyone who goes against the law in their attempt to disrupt the marathon or the public order."

The marathon this year will mark 50 years since the unification of the city, and has become a source of pride for the city's residents.

"This is the best answer we have to those who seek to disrupt our daily lives." said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat.

"More than 30,000 runners will partake, more than in any other year, and with 50 percent more runners partaking from abroad. That is our greatest victory."

Runners taking part in last year's Jerusalem marathon, March, 2016.
Emil Salman

"The Jerusalem marathon has become a first-class international sporting event which brings in millions of shekels for local businesses, adds to the wellbeing of the city's residents," Barkat said. Hundreds of police, border guards and stewards will be on standby throughout the day.