Eleven people have been arrested as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews took to the streets of Jerusalem to decry the detention of their young co-religionists who didn’t show for enlistment to the Israeli armed forces.
Around 1,500 members of the so-called “Jerusalem faction” of the Israeli ultra-Orthodox community protested in several locations across the city on Monday, according to Haaretz. They blocked light rail and vehicular traffic for several hours, affecting the area around the Israeli parliament, Knesset, among others.
The police used water cannon, which sprayed foul smelling green liquid on the protesters, in order to disperse them. The tactic, however, didn’t bring immediate results as some of the protesters sat on the ground in front of the vehicle, preventing its movement.
The police made 11 arrests before the protests were finally curbed and traffic resumed, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Jerusalem and the nearby town of Beit Shemesh became the scene of much larger Orthodox protests last Thursday, which saw thousands participating and around 120 arrests.
The tensions escalated after some 45 students of yeshiva – an institution where Jewish religious texts are taught – were arrested and still remain in military prison for failing to show up for the draft or obtain the military service exemptions.
The Jerusalem Faction leader, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, has told the youths to refrain from getting exemptions and cooperating with the military in any other way. The move made hundreds of young men in the area eligible for arrest on charges of dodging conscription.
Protesters, however, told the Jerusalem Post that the exemptions from service were unavailable on many occasions and that the recruiters were pressuring some “weaker” Orthodox Jews to join the military against their will.
In September, the Israeli Supreme Court annulled the law that granted Orthodox Jews exemptions from service, saying that it was unconstitutional. It suspended its own ruing for a year, however, to allow the government time to work out new legislation on the issue.