Ultra-Orthodox extremists burn effigies of Haredi IDF soldiers

Ultra-Orthodox extremists in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood burnt effigies of Haredi IDF soldiers during Lag B'Omer celebratory bonfires on Saturday night as part of their protest against the Conscription Law.

In addition to the effigies, agitators also burned Israeli flags in a renewed effort to demonstrate their opposition to the state.

The effigies and the flags are the latest example of an annual custom in which ultra-Orthodox communities burn contemporary "enemies" of the community. Past recipients of the dubious honor include Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and former Knesset member Yossi Sarid.

This is not the first incident of violent behavior involving effigies of Haredi IDF soldiers. Several months ago, several dolls dressed as Haredi IDF soldiers were hanged throughout Mea Shearim.

Police forces who came to remove the effigies were subject to stone throwing and verbal abuse by locals.

The group thought to be behind the majority of inciting incidents—including mass protests and disruptions of traffic—is an extremist, ultra-Orthodox sect from Lithuania, referred to as the "Jerusalem Faction" and led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach.

In his opening remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the "reprehensible" burnings, but noted that the culprits represented a tiny minority fringe group.

"Last night, there was a reprehensible incident in Jerusalem. An extremist and truly marginal faction of ultra-orthodox society, a faction identified with Neturei Karta, burned effigies of IDF soldiers in uniform along with Israeli flags, in order to offend ultra-orthodox soldiers," Netanyahu said. "This was deplorable. IDF soldiers guard everyone, including the ultra-orthodox, including these people. I expect, request and demand that all public leaders condemn this despicable act and I also request that the police find those responsible."

In addition to Prime Minister Netanyahu, a host of public leaders spoke out harshly against the incident.

Minister of the Interior, Aryeh Deri, said the act was "indecent and outrageous," while calling on the police to "immediately arrest the perpetrators."

MK David Azulai, Minister of Religious Services, said, "Burning a doll dressed as a soldier is blasphemous, grave act that harms the public and soldiers. This is not the way of the Torah. I condemn these actions and call upon the Israel Police to bring justice to the irresponsible and outlandish minority who did this."

Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman joined the chorus as well, saying, "The burning of IDF soldier effigies is a shameful and severe event that requires resolute and uncompromising police action and a clear condemnation by the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community."

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid issued a response on his Facebook page, saying, "Is Israel still a country of law or have we abandoned this? Because it isn't a problem to find those responsible, there isn't a problem with arresting them and there isn't a problem in handing out indictments. This government—which speaks out against peep made by a minor journalist in Australia—cannot continue to stay silent in the face of such madness."

Lapid went on to write, "This isn't a struggle between the Haredim and the secular—the majority of Haredim are disgusted and shocked by these acts of insanity like all Israeli citizens. We need to investigate, arrest and punish."