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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid