Jerusalem – Israeli police arrested 120 people on Thursday during a demonstration by ultra-Orthodox Jews who blocked roads and set fires in protest at the forced military conscription of young men from their community.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said about 2,000 people from a fringe group of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested in Jerusalem, where they blocked a central intersection and paralyzed the main entrance to the city for hours. Some protesters held signs reading “draft equals religious persecution” and others set trash bins on fire. Protests took place in other cities as well.
The demonstrators oppose the recent arrest of a number of young men from within their community after they refused to be drafted into Israel’s compulsory military service.
Rosenfeld said police would use “whatever means necessary” to break up the “illegal” demonstration.
Many from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community believe young men shouldn’t have to enlist in the military, saying they serve the nation through study and prayer. That position along with government-issued draft exemptions for many ultra-Orthodox have caused friction with Israel’s secular Jews, most of whom must enlist at 18 and demand the ultra-Orthodox do their share.