Thousands of haredi Orthodox men protest military draft in Jerusalem

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thousands of haredi Orthodox men demonstrated against Israel’s military draft in the streets of a Jerusalem neighborhood.

The protesters filled the streets of Jerusalem’s Geulah neighborhood, located near the central bus station, on Tuesday evening.  The Associated Press put the crowd total at about 10,000.

Though the protest was unauthorized, police chose to monitor the proceedings rather than disperse the crowd, which they believe could have led to violence, the Times of Israel reported.

Previous protests have been smaller, but more violent.

The demonstration reportedly was spurred by the arrest of the son of a haredi rabbi from the Yerushalmi sect led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who had failed to show up for his draft summons.

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“We lived through the Pharaoh, we lived through the Spanish Inquisition, we lived through Hitler, we’ll outlive you. We’ll fill the prisons the way we filled the Diaspora,” the crowd chanted, according to the AP.

Protesters carried signs reading: “The Israeli Draft law: An attack on our religious freedom,” and “Yes to prison, no to the army.”

Haredi Orthodox men who are studying in yeshiva are exempt from army service, but they must show up for their draft call in order to receive the exemption.