Some 700 men from the hareidi-religious community protested outside of Prison 6 Wednesday demanding the release of an 18-year old draft dodger.
The yeshiva student was arrested earlier this week for refusing to report to the IDF offices, after multiple notices following his draft, as Walla! reports. He was sentenced to 14 days of detention.
Demonstrators picketed with signs bearing slogans like "We will not present ourselves, we will not serve!" and "Stop the persecution of religion in the Land of Israel."
Lithuanian hareidi-religious leader Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach also appeared at the demonstration, carrying a bouquet of flowers to express support for the detained. When asked by reporters how the wider community will deal with the upcoming Equal Burden of Service Law, which proposes sanctions against hareidi-religious draft dodgers to encourage greater recruitment rates from that sector, Auerbach simply answered: "G-d will help."
At the end of the Rabbi's visit, he expressed hope that he could help the community "rise to their challenges," in a reference to the potential law. "G-d will put in the hearts of our [Israeli] bretheren that those who study Torah form the soul of the Jewish people, cause them to cancel the decree and encourage more Torah learning," he predicted.
Yosef Petrov, who accompanied the Rabbi on his visit to the yeshiva student in prison, related that the student asked for a blessing from the Rabbi and that R' Auerbach believes in the potential precedents set by the situation. "Rabbi Auerbach believes that this young man represents the hareidi-religious community," Petrov stated.
"The hareidi-religious are not prepared to enlist," he continued. "It's a pity that this decree has been issued and it's even more of a pity that it's causing unrest between brothers (i.e. branches of the Jewish people)."
Regarding the young man himself, Petrov stated that while he is "strong," it has been difficult for him to cope with the situation in general and with the "obscenities" of the prison environment in particular.
Representatives of R' Auerbach standing with demonstrators outside of the prison told the protestors that the visit was "to lift the spirits of the man arrested for studying the Holy Torah."
Shaya Wein, a close associate of the Rabbi, told Walla! that "this is the first step of international demonstrations throughout the Jewish world. The hareidi community will protect its children at every cost."
The young man imprisoned is a yeshiva student from Kiryat Malahi, who had been called up for the draft last year, before the Tal Law exempting yeshiva students was revoked. When he appeared at the recruiting office, he told officers there that his full-time occupation was Torah study and that he was exempt from service under (then-)current regulations. Once the Tal Law was revoked by the Supreme Court, he was called up again.
The hareidi draft issue has caused a tumult among the wider religious community, with some hareidi MKs threatening to quit the Knesset over the issue. Other community leaders have insisted that the draft could be a success, and that the potential dangers to religious life are overhyped.