20 arrested as haredi protesters shut down Jerusalem light rail

Hundreds of anti-draft demonstrators take to the streets in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, blocking traffic. At least 20 arrested thus far.

David Rosenberg ,

Haredi demonstrators arrested during protest Sunday night
Haredi demonstrators arrested during protest Sunday night
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

At least 20 haredi anti-draft protesters were arrested Sunday evening as hundreds gathering Bnei Brak and Jerusalem to protest the arrest of yeshiva students accused of evading the draft.

Police say hundreds of demonstrators blocked roads at major intersections in the predominantly haredi city of Bnei Brak, and around major haredi population centers in the capital.

The protests were organized by the Yerushalmi Faction, a small but vocal movement led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach that opposes any compromise on the issue of haredi enlistment in the army. While most haredi yeshiva students obtain draft deferments from IDF draft boards, Rabbi Auerbach has instructed followers not to cooperate with army officials in any capacity, and to refuse to recognize their authority to conscript members of the haredi community.

While dozens of supporters have been arrested in recent months for their refusal to either enlist or obtain draft deferments, the Yerushalmi Faction has used the arrests as the pretext for road-blocking demonstrations, shutting down traffic at major intersections around the country.

Organizers have encouraged participants to film police officers dispatched to clear the demonstrators, leading to investigations into the actions of at least a dozen officers accused of police brutality or use of excessive force.

On Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators shut down Jabotinsky Street and Rabbi Akiva Street in Bnei Brak. Officers arrested at least 10 protesters in Bnei Brak.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, protesters blocked several roads as well as the light rail train line. According to the light rail operator, CityPass, the train is not currently operating between the Central Bus Station and the Damascus Gate station near the entrance to the Old as a result of the protests.