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Podcast: Diverse Voices Speak Out on Massive Draft Rally

Hear exclusive coverage from the scene of the massive 'Ateres' prayer vigil plus phone calls from concerned Israelis.
By Ben Bresky, Tamar Yonah & INR
First Publish: 3/3/2014, 3:34 PM

Dancing at Prayer Rally
Dancing at Prayer Rally
Natan Epstein

A variety of people called in to Arutz Sheva's News and Views Call-In Show with Tamar Yonah on Sunday to voice their opinions on the massive rally that took place in Jerusalem.

To listen click here

Natan Epstein, a photographer and video editor from Jerusalem had a unique vantage point from the rooftop of the Shaarei HaIr building. "There's a very large amount of women, I would say it's equal and maybe even more than the amount of men," he told Arutz Sheva.

"Streets are closed down and you can see people from all over town from every direction," he stated. He described a peaceful atmosphere with people singing, dancing, praying or just walking around. "I spoke to the chief of police and it's being coordinated very well with the leadership of the rally. There is no expectation of violence," Epstein reported.

When asked for his personal opinion, he stated, "if there is a difference of opinion [on the draft] it should be handled not by force, but done as it has been done, slowly but surely."

Jerusalem resident Elisha Mendelson, speaking from near the Gesher HaMeitarim [Chords Bridge] stated, "music is playing, people are streaming in, flyers are floating in the streets like snowflakes. The Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway is closed with no more room for buses. The street is packed and it's a carefree atmosphere even though it's a serious issue." 

Mendelson said he was against the draft not just for yeshiva students but for everyone. "Only in cases of extreme emergency should a government forcibly draft people. Joining the army is a special thing and those that do should be commended. But to leave the book of Torah and join the army is a personal choice and definitely should not be enforced with criminal sanctions," he stated.

However, not everyone was in favor of the rally. Long-time Arutz Sheva guest host and Jerusalem resident Shifra Hoffman reported, "They should be protesting the giving away of land. The Jews in the Holocaust would have given anything for a Jewish army," Hoffman related.

Dina, a caller from Jerusalem echoed her sentiments stating that everyone should do their patriotic duty to serve the country. Other callers sympathized with those at the prayer vigil.

Sarah, a resident of Beit Shemesh called in to state, "there is a feeling they are being pushed into the army and if you want to sit and learn Torah then you're a criminal. After the Holocaust, there was such a drop in Yiddishkeit [Jewishness], and this is the response. Those that don't want to sit and learn full-time should have options, but we need more gedolim [Torah greats], we need people learning full time," she said.

David, also calling from Beit Shemesh stated that in the United States, yeshiva studies can count as college credit and US army duty can go toward a degree. "Part of getting them into the army is to offer incentives," he stated, in contrast to fines or jail time. 

For the full program in mp3 format click here.

The Tamar Yonah Show broadcasts live every Sunday from 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Israel time and Monday - Wednesday from 7:00 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. For podcast archives click here.



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All photos by Natan Epstein.