Ultra-orthodox Israelis sent white powder

Israeli police have begun an investigation into multiple threatening letters that contained white powder that were sent to four ultra-orthodox members of parliament and a cabinet minister.

One of the envelopes, which all contained letters demanding that exempt religious citizens serve in the military, was delivered to Eli Yishai, the interior minister and head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, AFP reports.

“A white powder found inside has been sent to the lab and we are awaiting the results of testing,” Rosenfeld said, according to AFP. “Four MPs from the United Torah Judaism party received threatening letters, two today and two yesterday. In one of them was powder – sugar, salt, something like that.”

The letters referred to the fact that the ultra-Orthodox do not serve in the Israeli army. Those studying religious texts are exempt from serving the standard three years in the military, which has become a contentious issue in Israeli society.

“We, the enlightened residents of the State of Israel, demand that you people of darkness top living at our expense, learning all day and not working, not serving in the army or reserve duty,” one of the letters said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “Stop sucking our blood…Grab your packs and shtreimels, your smelly beards and sideburns, and take off to Brooklyn.”

The threatening letters follow several weeks of protests, which saw university students demonstrat against a government plan to pay stipends of millions of shekels to full-time religious students but not to secular students involved in higher education.