Ultra-Orthodox Jews Clash With Police In Protest Over New Israeli Military Draft

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Tensions ran high in Jerusalem on Thursday as thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews took to the streets to protest a new Israeli military draft law, clashing with police and sparking widespread unrest.

The protests, which began in the early morning hours, saw demonstrators blockading major roads and intersections, setting fire to trash cans and dumpsters, and hurling rocks and bottles at police officers. Riot police responded with tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannons in an effort to disperse the crowds.

At the heart of the controversy is a new law passed by the Israeli government last month, which aims to increase the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the military. The law, which was hailed as a major victory for secular Israelis, has been met with fierce resistance from the ultra-Orthodox community, who claim it threatens their way of life.

Under the new law, ultra-Orthodox men will be required to serve in the military or perform national service, just like their secular counterparts. The law also sets quotas for ultra-Orthodox recruitment and imposes penalties on those who fail to comply.

But for many in the ultra-Orthodox community, the law is seen as an attack on their religious freedom and a threat to their traditional way of life. They argue that military service would require them to compromise their religious beliefs and values, and that it would distract them from their studies and spiritual pursuits.

“We will not be silenced,” said Rabbi David Weiss, a prominent ultra-Orthodox leader. “We will not be forced to abandon our faith and our traditions. We will fight this law with every fiber of our being.”

The protests, which were organized by several ultra-Orthodox groups, drew thousands of demonstrators from across the country. Many wore traditional clothing and carried signs reading “Torah is our defense” and “We will not serve in the army.”

The clashes with police were intense, with several officers injured and dozens of protesters arrested. The violence was condemned by Israeli leaders, who urged calm and restraint.

“We understand the concerns of the ultra-Orthodox community, but violence is not the answer,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We will work to find a solution that respects the rights and traditions of all Israelis.”

The controversy highlights the deep divisions within Israeli society, where the ultra-Orthodox community has long been at odds with the secular majority. The ultra-Orthodox, who make up around 10% of the population, have traditionally been exempt from military service, sparking resentment among secular Israelis who feel they are shouldering an unfair burden.

The new law is seen as a major shift in the balance of power, and its implementation is likely to be closely watched in the coming months. For now, the ultra-Orthodox community remains defiant, vowing to continue their protests until the law is repealed.

“We will not back down,” said Rabbi Weiss. “We will fight for our rights and our way of life. We will not be silenced.”

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