Downtown Manhattan yesterday looked a lot like Jerusalem the previous weekend, with tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathering to protest Israel’s proposed military draft, which would require religious citizens to join the army.
Sunday’s two-hour rally brought together protestors from various ultra-Orthodox communities, some from Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, and many others from the predominantly ultra-Orthodox enclave of Kiryas Joel, north of Manhattan. Tight security surrounded the streets around Wall Street, where men and women stood in separate groups while chanting along to Hebrew prayers blasting over loudspeakers, the New York Times reports.
If passed, the conscription bill would impose criminal sanctions on ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers—marking a radical departure for Israel, which has, since the nation’s founding in 1948, allowed the ultra-Orthodox to avoid compulsory military service to pursue religious study. The bill, which was proposed two weeks ago after the Supreme Court of Israel froze funding to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas whose students defer their army drafts, is expected to appear in Knesset for a vote before the end of the month.