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Why Israel's ultra-Orthodox mainstream worries about its image

Leaders of the mainstream ultra-Orthodox community object to anti-draft demonstrations championed by an extreme ultra-Orthodox minority.

Oct. 23 was a real nightmare for drivers in Jerusalem. Alongside demonstrations by the disabled and others, dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews from the "Jerusalem faction" blocked the entrance to the city. They fought with the police and even shattered the windshield of an Egged bus.

The Jerusalem faction consists of ultra-Orthodox who split from the main Lithuanian faction five years ago. Their leader is Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who lives in Jerusalem — hence their name. The main debate between them and the rest of the ultra-Orthodox world is their refusal to show up in military recruitment centers to receive an exemption from military service. According to an arrangement with the Ministry of Defense, yeshiva students who declare that "Torah study is their profession" must show up at the recruitment centers to declare that they have devoted their lives to Torah study. Their enlistment is then deferred, and this effectively becomes an exemption.

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