Ultra-Orthodox Jews take to NYC streets in protest of possible IDF conscription
Orthodox Jews gather on Water Street in lower Manhattan March 9, 2014 to pray and protest against the current effort by the Israeli government to pass a law to draft religious Jews into its army. (AFP/Al Bawaba edit)
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews rallied in New York City on Sunday to protest new legislation proposed in Israel that would end military service exemptions granted to seminary students.
Some fifty thousand protestors held a mass prayer service near Wall Street that lasted 90 minutes.
The demonstrators asserted that seminary students must be exempted from military service so that they can continue with their religious studies.
However, the military bill, put forward by a parliamentary committee recently, would make military service compulsory for the religious citizens. The bill is expected to pass later this month and will go into effect in 2017.
“Until now, they gave us the respect since we’re religious and we study, that we should stay in the yeshivas,” said protestor Rabbi Jacob Kellner “Now. They’re changing that. This is very strongly a lack of respect.”
“It’s devastating, there’s no compromise,” he said. “I tell my kids, ‘If you get drafted, I would rather you go to jail, than to serve.’ It’s so dangerous the situation there.”
Also last Sunday, hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews held a similar protest rally in Jerusalem al-Quds.
Advocates of the bill, which would impose criminal sanctions against ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers, have hailed it as a historic step. But, ultra-Orthodox leaders argue that such a move would deny them the right to devote themselves full-time to religious studies.
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