JERUSALEM – Thousands of young ultra-Orthodox men protested Thursday night against a government proposal to draft them into the military for the first time.

More than 20,000 protesters gathered at an Israel Defense Forces recruiting office in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Some threw stones at police and set garbage cans on fire, according to police. Others carried signs condemning government “edicts” and saying, “Your fate is in your hands.”

“We say ‘no’ to the enlistment of yeshiva students, even if all of us will be forced to go to jail en masse,” protest spokesman Pini Rosenberg told the Israeli news website Ynet.

Plans to draft ultra-Orthodox are being debated by a committee set up by Israel’s new coalition government.

Most ultra-Orthodox avoid military service, but the law that in effect exempted them from the army was voided last year by Israel’s Supreme Court, which said it was unfair to other young Israelis who are required to serve.

A military draft of religious students was one of the key issues in forming the new coalition government, which is the first in decades that does not include ultra-Orthodox political parties.

A vote on the draft is not expected for several months.