Haredim opposed to the IDF draft of yeshiva students on Wednesday staged a major protest along Israel's highways. Some 200 motor vehicles left from Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem and slowly wound their way along Road 1, the main road to Tel Aviv, eventually reaching the Gannot Junction, where they turned onto Road 4 in the direction of Bnei Brak. The vehicles then passed through towards their final destination – the Hadarim lockup, where haredi yeshiva students who have refused to respond to draft notices are imprisoned. Traffic was slow throughout the day along the routes the protestors drove.
According to sources in the haredi community, the protest is reflective of a major debate going on in the haredi community between followers of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who is fiercely opposed to the draft, and the followers of Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, considered more moderate in his views and allows students to appear before draft boards in order to seek a deferment.
Haredi MKs, most of whom are followers of Rabbi Steinman, have mostly avoided discussing the draft during the current election campaign, and they have generally not appeared in haredi newspapers.
But groups opposed to the draft have been conducting protests on a regular basis. On Monday, dozens of haredim blocked the Shilat Junction outside of Modi'in. In their protest, the activists tried to sit on the highway and blocked it with their bodies for several long minutes. They held signs reading "dictatorial crime," and "sanctify His Name in the masses."
Young haredim protested against the arrests in Jerusalem and Ashdod as well. Dozens of haredim gathered on Sarei Yisrael Street in Jerusalem where they blocked off the road, and elsewhere in the capital haredim used garbage dumpsters to block Golda Meir Boulevard, leading to the northern neighborhood of Ramot. On the corner of Bar-Ilan and Shmuel Hanavi streets, dozens of haredim protested, and one was arrested for a breach of public order.
In Ashdod, 15 haredi protesters were arrested for breaching public order, and one police officer was lightly wounded, requiring medical treatment. During the protest, a central intersection in the city was blocked.
Protests were likewise held on Sunday night, and three haredim were arrested in Kikar Hashabbat in central Jerusalem for breaching the public order.