17 May 2013

Ultra-Orthodox Jews against military service

10:09 am on 17 May 2013

An estimated 20,000 Ultra-Orthodox Jews protested in Jerusalem on Thursday against plans to force them to do military service.

Demonstrators gathered outside the main army recruitment office in the city. Stones were hurled at the building and bins were set on fire.

Rabbis warned that army service would irreparably harm their way of life.

You cannot change our (way of life)," Rabbi David Zycherman told the crowd.

AFP reports the protesters also prayed and chanted "the Torah above everything!" referring to Jewish religious law, and "the army will not take yeshiva (religious seminary) pupils."

Ultra-Orthodox Jews are usually exempted from military service on religious grounds. But the coalition government intends to compel more people to do military service.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up 10% of Israel's population of 8 million. Most do not work and rely heavily on state subsidies for religious studies and to support their families.

The party of Finance Minister Yair Lapid received wide support in elections in January on a pledge to resist demands by religious parties and to spread the load of army service and taxation more evenly.

Israel's budget deficit was 4.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) last year