Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jews flooded the streets of Jerusalem Sunday to protest a bill that would force them to be part of Israel's military draft.
An estimated 300,000 Haredi Jews turned up in the capital, blocking traffic during the morning and early afternoon. The rally was supervised by about 3,500 police and security officials. But by evening the demonstrators had peacefully dispersed. (Via Israel Videos Feed)
Traditionally, Haredi men have been exempt from Israel's compulsory military service, signing up for religious schools instead. But a bill expected to pass the country's parliament this month would make it a crime for Haredi Jews to avoid the draft.
The bill has led to clashes between the Haredi and the Israeli government before. Last month a protest in Ashdod threatened to turn violent after Israeli police began using water cannons on demonstrators. (ViaEuronews)
Protesters accuse the government of trampling on their religious beliefs. One demonstrator told The Jerusalem Post, "The goal of the government in getting Haredim to go to the army is to get them to abandon their religion."
"We contribute in our way. We've proven that our contribution helps the community and kept the people of Israel as one nation throughout 3,000 years." (Via Al Jazeera)
But government officials have been pushing to end the exemption, saying it encourages the Haredim to disconnect from the modern world. Israel's economy minister wrote in The New York Times last month that military participation would help Haredi Jews find work later in life.
"With extremely low labor participation, ultra-Orthodox Jews ... have unfortunately slipped into a situation of welfare and poverty. ... This situation must end."
Ultra-Orthodox Jews constitute about 11 percent of Israel's roughly 8 million people.
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