Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Israelis stage rally protesting military draft

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, May 16, 2013 19:00 EDT
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Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray on top of Mount Gerizim on March 28, 2013. File photo via AFP.
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Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested in Jerusalem on Thursday against any plans to make them undergo military service, a police spokesman said.

“At least 15,000 haredim (ultra-Orthodox) gathered outside the army recruiting office in Jerusalem,” the spokesman said.

He said the demonstrators threw stones and “other objects” at security personnel, but there were no reports of any arrests.

Protesters also prayed and chanted “the Torah above everything!” referring to Jewish religious law, and “the army will not take yeshiva (religious seminary) pupils.”

Police deployed in force to prevent any trouble.

“We will not allow breaches of the peace,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

Military service is compulsory in Israel, with men serving three years and women two.

But tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox are currently exempted from army service by virtue of being enrolled in yeshivas.

Any move to expand the draft is vehemently opposed by the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Several proposals on expanding the draft are under discussion, but ultra-Orthodox rabbis say their pupils’ religious studies come first.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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