Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest Israel's military service bill

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Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews have taken to the streets in al-Quds (Jerusalem) to protest against plans to enroll them into the army. More than 300,000 Jews took part in the protest rally on Sunday, with police saying that the protesters paralyzed parts of the city as they blocked the city's main entrance and halted public transport. The demonstration came in response to a draft law that would end military exemptions given to seminary students. Israeli Jewish men and women are called up for military service at the age of 18; however, most ultra-Orthodox Jews are exempted from the service. A parliamentary committee has recently come up with a military bill that is expected to pass later this month. The bill is expected to be implemented from 2017 and will set quotas for ultra-Orthodox men to join the military or civilian public services. Supporters have hailed the bill as a historic step. But, ultra-Orthodox leaders argue that such a move would deny them the right to devote themselves full-time to the study of religious scriptures. "We want to show that we are united and we want to stop a bad thing that they are trying to force us into. The army is not our way of life. It is not run by our rabbis," said a protester. The organizers of the demonstration called on seminary students at the end of the event not to enlist in the army "under any terms and not to cooperate with the authorities."

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