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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

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