Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Hackney protest against Israel’s proposed end to military exemption

PUBLISHED: 13:57 04 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:52 04 March 2014

The crowd at Sunday's protest, photo PhotoYYM, @photoyym

The crowd at Sunday's protest, photo PhotoYYM, @photoyym


Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews came out in Stamford Hill to protest against a bill which would cut their community’s military exemption in Israel.

Part of the crowd at Sunday's protest, photo PhotoYYM, @photoyymPart of the crowd at Sunday's protest, photo PhotoYYM, @photoyym

Around 4,000 people gathered outside the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girl’s School in Egerton Road, Stamford Hill on Sunday.

They stood in solidarity with around 400,000 of the Hasidic community, who took to the streets in Jerusalem to complain about the proposed legislation which could be passed in the coming weeks.

Most Israeli Jewish men and women are called for military service when they turn 18, but most ultra-Orthodox Jews, or “Charedim” – a Hebrew term meaning “those who tremble before God” - are emempt.

Charedim say scholars studying the of holy scriptures have a right to devote themselves full time to the tradition, and that army service would deny them the fulfillment of that religious edict.

Some of the rabbis at the top table at Sunday's protest, photo PhotoYYM, @photoyymSome of the rabbis at the top table at Sunday's protest, photo PhotoYYM, @photoyym

A spokesman for the Jewish Community Council from Hackney said: “Secular Jews who don’t have the tradition of being Orthodox, as in learning and studying the Torah, are keeping our country safe by serving in the army and fighting physically for the Jewish state, whereby ultra Orthodox Jews fight by praying to God and studying the Torah.

He added: “We as Jews know the Torah was given to us by God who keep us safe every minute of the day, but that takes some exercises to do.”

Many Israelis however resent the ultra-Orthodox community and accuse them of burdening the economy and avoiding the duties which bind others.

The Haredim make up about 10 percent of Israel’s 8 million people and most Haredi men are unemployed and live off state benefits, donations and their wives’ often low wages.

The details are still not clear, but there is a possibility Hackney residents who are Israeli nationals could be drafted to serve.

Israel’s cabinet has no ultra-Orthodox members for the first time in a decade, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressed to introduce reforms under the slogan “sharing the burden”.

This would have been politically risky in the past for coalition governments which relied on the support of ultra-Orthodox partners.

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