Israel ultra-Orthodox Jews rally against military service


Jerusalem (AFP)

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested Thursday in Jerusalem against compulsory military service, clashing with security forces and paralysing traffic by blocking a major road.

The demonstrators blocked a major road linking Jerusalem with Tel Aviv, before the security forces dispersed them and the artery was reopened, police said in a statement.

Thursday's protest came a day after the arrest of a young man who failed to show up to request an exemption after being conscripted.

Hardline Jews have staged a series of demonstrations in recent months spurred by arrests of young ultra-Orthodox men accused of dodging military service.

A hardcore group of seminary students have even refused to request exemptions from military service under the influence of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who died in February.

Israeli law requires men to serve two years and eight months in the military on reaching the age of 18, while women must serve for two.

Ultra-Orthodox men are exempt from military service if they are engaged in religious study, but must still report to the army to receive their exemption.

In September, a decision by Israel's supreme court struck down the law exempting them. But the court suspended its ruling for a year, giving the government time to pass new legislation.