Protesters demand elections, draft of haredim in Jerusalem – Israel Politics

Protesters demonstrated against Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef on Tuesday morning in response to a recent threat of his that haredim would leave Israel if forced to draft into the IDF.

As part of the protest, the demonstrators presented a “Dividing Israel” award, a reference to the Israel Prize that the rabbi is set to receive on Independence Day.

The award states that it’s being presented for Yosef’s “work in diving the nation, entrenching the polarization, and perpetuating the draft dodging of haredim.” The award also mentions the rabbi’s comments against army service.

“The fact that [Yosef] holds a state position which is meant to serve as a religious and spiritual guide for all of Israel has not left our sight,” read the award.

In March, Yosef said “If they force us to join the army, we will all move abroad.”

Protesters gather in front of the offices of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. April 2, 2024 (credit: AMIR TERKEL)

“They need to understand, all these secular people who don’t understand, they need to understand that without the Torah, without the yeshivot, without the kollels, the IDF wouldn’t succeed. Already the army doesn’t always succeed, we saw how the army ‘succeeded’ on Simchat Torah,” said the rabbi at the time.

Last week, Education Minister Yoav Kish announced that Yosef would be receiving the Israel Prize for Torah Literature.

The protesters called on Yosef to retract his comments concerning the army and apologize.

“We came to remind the chief rabbi that his role as a leader is to unite and bring together, not to divide and incite,” said the protesters. “It is forbidden for such messages to come from those entrusted with the spiritual leadership of Israel. Yosef must retract his words, recognize the duty of every citizen to contribute to the security of the state, and lead himself a process of reconciliation, solidarity, and mutual responsibility between all parts of the nation.”

Moshe Radman Abutbul, one of the central leaders of the anti-government protests, warned that public figures in Israel need to understand that “the protest is moving up a step.”

“If they think that we will continue to be silent while they empty the state coffers, while they ignore the hostages, while they ignore the public’s will concerning equal sharing of the burden [of military service], [the public’s desire for] the announcement of an election date and for a sane reality and for a leadership that cares for the public as a whole, then they’re making a big mistake – MKs, ministers, public figures, everyone who receives a salary from us will start to hear and feel very well the will of the public, today is just a trailer,” said Abutbul.

Protests to continue in Jerusalem

Anti-government protests will continue in Jerusalem on Tuesday for a third day since demonstrations in the capital began on Sunday.

At 7 p.m., a rally will be held near the Knesset, with families of the hostages, social activists, and former politicians speaking at the event. The speakers will include ‎‏Einav Zangauker, the mother of Matan Zangauker, who is being held hostage in Gaza; Meirav Svirsky, whose parents were murdered in Be’eri on October 7 and whose brother was kidnapped and murdered; former prime minister Ehud Barak; Soumya Bashir, head of the ‘We have no other country’ group; Col. (res.) Uri Arad, a former prisoner of war; and Vicky and Yehuda Cohen, the parents of Nimrod Cohen, who was kidnapped by Hamas.

The protesters are demanding that elections be declared as soon as possible, that a deal be reached to free hostages, and that the upcoming Knesset recess be canceled.

“The current government endangers the future of the State of Israel and the entire Zionist enterprise,” said Eran Schwartz, the CEO of the Free in Our Land movement. “The order of the day is to return the mandate to the people and go to immediate elections in order to allow the people to choose a worthy leadership that will win the people’s trust. We will continue to demonstrate until we bring all the hostages home and we put Israel back on the right track.”

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