Ultra-Orthodox Man Arrested For Burning Effigy of IDF Soldier

An ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem man was arrested Sunday for burning an effigy of an IDF soldier during the Lag B’Omer festival earlier this year, police said.

In a statement Monday morning, Israel Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said an arrest warrant had been issued for the suspect after he was identified in a video of the display in the Mea Shearim neighborhood holding a life-sized puppet-like doll of an Israeli soldier over a bonfire with a long stick.

The effigy was dressed in an army shirt emblazoned on the back with the name of the Sayaret Matkal elite commando unit. A beard had been drawn on the face of the model in an apparent attempt to make it look like an ultra-Orthodox soldier.

The crowd, including a number of children, cheered as the effigy caught fire.

The incident took place as part of celebrations for Lag B’Omer, the traditional date of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, a first-century sage, which is marked with celebrations and bonfires.

Police said the suspect will be brought before a judge for a hearing on Monday afternoon.

Recent months have seen a surge in protests and sometimes violent action by extremist ultra-Orthodox elements who are vehemently opposed to mandatory army service.

Actions against the draft have included mass protests by thousands of demonstrators in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Beit Shemesh, cities that have large ultra-Orthodox communities. Arrests of draft-dodgers have also been met with large protests.

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis, who for decades enjoyed a blanket exemption from army service, oppose what they say is the IDF’s lax observance of Jewish laws. Recent attempts to cater to ultra-Orthodox recruits have been met with some success, but many ultra-Orthodox soldiers still face harassment, threats, and assault while on leave in Haredi neighborhoods.

Some segments of ultra-Orthodox society refuse to recognize the State of Israel and oppose Zionism, because of their belief that the establishment of a Jewish state should only come after the arrival of the messiah.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has roundly condemned the ultra-Orthodox rioters, and has vowed to take action against the violence displayed toward religious soldiers.

“While the best of our sons and daughters are risking their lives to defend the homeland, an extremist, violent and anti-Zionist group is attempting to prevent the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox Jews into the army,” he tweeted August 8. “Shame.”

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