Israeli police have moved to scatter a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who were disrupting traffic in Jerusalem al-Quds to protest the arrest of their community members.
About 150 ultra-Orthodox Jews, from the so-called Jerusalem Faction, had staged a sit-in at a main intersection on Sunday to protest the arrest of fellow Jews who had failed to seek official exemption from military service.
The protesters had disrupted traffic and the local light rail system. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement that the protest was “illegal” and that security forces had to use “any means at their disposal” to end it.
Police were then deployed to the site of the protest, using skunk-water cannon to scatter the protesters. Thirty six people were also arrested.
Some police officers said they had been assaulted by the protesters.
Footage of the standoff showed a woman passing by at the time being hit with the water from the cannon, flying forward, and falling meters farther.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, where military service is compulsory, have been exempt from conscription. But they have to report to a conscription office to register and get official exemption.
According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, most ultra-Orthodox Jews comply with that rule, but the so-called Jerusalem Faction, led by Shmuel Auerbach, is against its members even entering a conscription office to report.
Eleven Jews from that faction have been arrested recently for failing to register, and Auerbach has called for demonstrations to protest the arrests.
“Go out to the city streets and protest for the honor of the Torah, which has been trampled into the dust,” Auerbach had said.
Earlier in September, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service were unconstitutional.