JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel who say they should receive a blanket exemption from military conscription staged a sit-down protest at a major Jerusalem junction on Thursday, prompting scuffles with police.
Israel has long exempted many of its ultra-Orthodox men from the draft, on the understanding they are better suited for seminary studies. Political parties run by rabbis in the coalition government have helped preserve the arrangement in the face of criticism by secular Israelis.
But some ultra-Orthodox men do not secure exemptions and, should they avoid call-ups, face possible prosecution.
Protesters taking part in Thursday’s demonstration said they had turned out in solidarity with an ultra-Orthodox man who had been arrested for draft-dodging. Thirty-seven people were arrested, police said.
The protesters had blocked traffic at the western entrance to Jerusalem, leading to the Tel Aviv highway.
A police statement said it would “take determined, firm-handed action against extremist ultra-Orthodox Jews who disrupt public order”.
Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg