Thousands of men protested the military draft in a demonstration Tuesday night held in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim.
The demonstrators were specifically protesting the recruitment of hareidi-religious male students.
Most males in the hareidi-religious sector continue their studies past the age of 18, the age at which all Israeli youths are drafted for military service. Instead, they prepare for a life of Torah study in a kollel (rabbinic study hall). Some train to become Torah scribes, highly skilled religious slaughterers of kosher meat, Torah adjutants, rabbinic teachers, and so forth.
Recently changed laws have mandated instead that many of these young men must interrupt their studies to serve in the military, sometimes in environments not conducive to Torah life.
Hareidi-religious leaders have vigorously fought this trend, citing the difficulties of catching up with learning that was lost during IDF service, and the struggles to re-adapt to a yeshiva lifestyle after the military.
Not all hareidi-religious students are suited for such a life, however, and many do enter the military. Those who do, however, have faced a complex set of challenges both within their communities and within the IDF as well, during their service and upon discharge.