News / Middle East

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Protest in Jerusalem, Vowing to Defy Draft

Ultra-orthodox Jews push a burning garbage bin towards Israeli security forces during a protest against military conscription of yeshiva students, in Jerusalem, May 16, 2013.
Ultra-orthodox Jews push a burning garbage bin towards Israeli security forces during a protest against military conscription of yeshiva students, in Jerusalem, May 16, 2013.
Reuters
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested in Jerusalem on Thursday against plans to enlist men from their community into the military, a proposal supported by the secular majority pushing for a more equal share of the burden on Israeli society.
 
A sea of black coats - the traditional attire of ultra-Orthodox men - engulfed Jerusalem streets near the city's military draft bureau where the crowd heard rabbis warn that army service would irreparably harm their way of life.
 
“The government wants to uproot (our traditions) and secularize us, they call it a melting pot, but people cannot be melted. You cannot change our (way of life),” Rabbi David Zycherman told the crowd in an anguished plea.
 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government has committed to increase drafting ultra-Orthodox men, most of whom receive exemptions on religious grounds, in order to share the national burden and reduce pressure on the middle classes.
 
The party of Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Netanyahu's main coalition partner, received wide support at the polls in January on a pledge to resist demands by religious parties and to spread the load of army service and taxation more evenly.
 
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said at least 20,000 protesters took part and about a dozen arrests were made when violence erupted and men hurled bottles and stones at officers, some on horseback, who used stun grenades to quell the unrest.
 
A water cannon was also deployed as protesters set alight garbage bins, a regular occurrence at ultra-Orthdox demonstrations. At least six officers required medical treatment and two were taken to hospital, Rosenfeld added.
 
An Israel Radio commentator said the participants came from the most hardline elements of the ultra-Orthodox community who shun any compromise with the authorities on army service and even refuse to recognize the Jewish state for religious reasons.
 
Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up some 10 percent of Israel's population of 8 million. Most do not work, they receive military service exemptions and rely heavily on state subsidies for their religious studies and to support their families.
 
About 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men engage in full-time Jewish religious studies, keeping them out of the labor market.
 
On Tuesday, the cabinet approved a budget draft that will slash spending and hike taxes this year and next to rein in a growing budget deficit. Lapid has warned that failure to implement public spending cuts could cause an economic collapse.
 
Israel's budget deficit was 4.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) last year - more than double its initial target -due to overspending by the previous government and lower-than-expected tax revenues as the economy slowed.
 
The issue of drafting ultra-Orthodox men into the military is part of a broader struggle between the secular majority and ultra-Orthodox minority over lifestyle in the Jewish state.
 
Most Israeli men and women are called up for military service for up to three years when they turn 18. However, exceptions are made for most Arab citizens of Israel, as well as ultra-Orthodox men and women.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More