Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews paralyzed most of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds as men, women, and children took to the streets to protest against an army service bill that would require many of them to serve in the military.
Local media reports called the protest “a million man march” and put the number of participants at between 250,000 and 400,000, while organizers said nearly 500,000 Haredi -- ultra-Orthodox men as they are called in the occupied territories -- attended the demonstration.
Dressed in black hats and long black jackets, members of the Haredi sect waved signs in Hebrew and English accusing the government of attempting to suppress religion.
Some of the banners read: “Military service will not be imposed on us” and “Jews cannot survive without the Torah.”
The demonstration was organized by the religious and political leadership of the Haredi community, which makes up six percent of the Zionist regime’s population of 8 million.
A total 3,500 of security forces and several helicopters were deployed to ensure order at all times. The demonstration was mostly peaceful, but a number of people were injured. The Jerusalem Post cited the Israeli EMS -- Magen David Adom -- which said that it treated 74 protesters at the rally. All of the treated protesters were said to have been lightly injured and suffered from weakness or minor bruising. Some had difficulty breathing because of the hazy weather, MDA said.
The secular majority in the occupied territories has been putting increasing pressure on the government for more equitable military service laws. For the first time in a decade, Israel’s cabinet has no ultra-Orthodox members and the main coalition partners have pressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to enact reforms.
The so-called ‘Tal Law’ which allowed Arab-Israelis and ultra-Orthodox Jews to be exempt from military service was passed in 2002, but expired on August 1, 2012.
The new legislation, which proposes enlisting all Israeli men and women between the ages 18 and 22, has been in the works since last summer, when it received initial approval from the Israeli cabinet.
In February, a parliamentary committee passed a clause that would allow criminal penalties on non-compliant ultra-Orthodox Jews who refuse to report for duty.
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