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Haredi MK to US Envoy: Rabbis Will Declare Religious War

It would probably be easier for the U.S. to make peace between the warring factions in Syria than between MK Porush and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush (seen handcuffing himself to the microphone during a speech at the Knesset plenum against the draft bill. Now he is threatening a full blown religious war, should the law be passed.

United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush (seen handcuffing himself to the microphone during a speech at the Knesset plenum against the draft bill. Now he is threatening a full blown religious war, should the law be passed.
Photo Credit: Flash90

The next religious war in the Middle East, according to Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush, will not be between any of the religious factions bubbling about in Syria, Iraq, Jordan or Egypt, but between the Haredim and the rest of the secular establishment in Israel. That was the essence of the lawmaker’s message to American Ambassador Dan Shapiro, his guest on Monday in Jerusalem, as reported by Kikar Hashabbat.

The get-together, initially planned as part of the ongoing, excellent relationship between Agudat Israel in Jerusalem and the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, turned very quickly to the politics of the day, most notably the new draft legislation which is threatening to clear many benches in Haredi yeshivas across Israel.

Ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro was born in Champaign, Illinois. While attending Washington University, he spent his sophomore year in Israel, and then transferred to Brandeis University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. Two years later he got a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Politics from Harvard University. He speaks both Hebrew and Arabic. Shapiro, his wife and their three children are members of the Conservative Jewish Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC.

Ambassador Dan Shapiro visiting the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Photo by Matty Stern / US Embassy / FLASH90

Ambassador Dan Shapiro visiting the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Photo by Matty Stern / US Embassy / FLASH90

The ambassador and the MK started out discussing Syria, with the ambassador presenting the official White House line about the value of teaching President al-Assad a lesson that should be watched and absorbed by others, such as Iran and Hezbollah. Shapiro admitted that there wasn’t much support for that educational effort in the American public, but he added that President Obama nevertheless sees a great danger in letting the gassing incident pass without a proper, decisive, military reaction.

Of course, that was Monday, and since then it appears the president would be willing to accept lesser educational avenues, such as the dismantling of Assad’s chemical stocks, proving to the world once more that America’s red lines are as flexible as lines of any other color.

Soon enough, they let go of those trivialities, and Ambassador Shapiro wanted to know how the Haredim felt about the new draft legislation. He emphasized that America does not get involved in the internal affairs of other countries (unless they involve Sarin gas, that is), but, nevertheless, the U.S. wants to see a strong Israel, both militarily and socially.

“There should be internal cohesion,” Shapiro counseled, “mutual understanding – even though there are, naturally, different opinions, as it has been for 65 years.”

MK Porush replied that for the Haredi public, this is nothing short of an existential issue. He added, poignantly: “When our rabbis sense that there’s an attempt to alter our lifestyle, they’ll declare a religious war.”

“I recently told Jewish Home MKs,” Porush added, “don’t be tempted to test us, it could end up being a very tough fight. That’s how I see my role these days, to deliver this message to everyone: Should there be a law here, which we would view as compulsive conscription, the rabbis would declare a religious war, a religious confrontation.”

“I’m telling you and asking of you,” MK Porush told the ambassador, “it’s crucial that you report the government in the United States, so it won’t come as a surprise to you. If there will be a law that will compel yeshiva students, the rabbis will view this as an attempt to force an alternative lifestyle. This could cause serious shock waves in Israel.”

MK Porush noted that “Israel is the only country where Jews are being killed for being Jews, and it will, apparently, become the only country in the world that doesn’t permit Torah study to anyone wishing to sit and learn. This doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Just as there isn’t another place in the world where Jews are being killed for being Jews.”

Ambassador Shapiro asked why Haredim view the draft as an existential threat, and Porush responded: “This is our path in life, which is why we’ve retained our clothing and our customs, the image of the Haredi Jew as it has been since we received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. We are the oldest nation, which has survived only because it tied itself to the Torah and behaves according to the Torah 24 hours a day. Among the things in the Torah is the commandment: Vehagita bo yomam valaila – study it day and night.”

Prush said he understood, “as the Torah understands, that one must exist, and whomever has to goes out and works for a living. But when they want to pass a law that would make it impossible from the start to maintain the principle of ‘study day and night’ for reasons of state – that’s an attempt to force on us to change our way of life. Such a compulsion will damage are religious development. This is why this is an existential threat. And so the rabbis will declare in such a case a religious war, and in a religious war I and everyone else know who would win.”

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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13 Responses to “Haredi MK to US Envoy: Rabbis Will Declare Religious War”

  1. Herman Rosen says:

    THE HAREDIS WILL RUIN THE COUNTRY…THEY HAVE ALREADY TAKEN OVER.
    LARGE AREAS OF ISRAEL…AND AT THE RATE THEY REPRODUCE IN 25 OR SO.
    YEARS ISRAEL WILL BE JUST ANOTHER IRAN.
    IT IS THE SECULAR PART OF ISRAEL THAT DEFENDS IT AND MAKES THE STRIDES IN.
    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY…CONSTANT AND UNRELENTING TORAH STUDY.
    TURNS THE MIND INTO JELLO AND HATRED OF EVERYONE THAT IS DIFFERENT.
    ISRAEL WAS FORSEEN AS A SECULAR DEMOCRACY BY THE FOUNDERS NOT THE THEOCRACY IT IS BECOMING TOO BAD…I AM GLAD TO BE IN THE U S THE BESTPLACE FOR JEWS NOW.

  2. Dan Silagi says:

    Porush is a liar. Israel cuts the Haredim just about every break one can cut, from tax forgiveness to draft avoidance to paying them huge benefits so their wives can have eight children while hubby spends all day shuckling. But he has the chutzpah to claim that "Israel is the only country that doesn't permit Torah study for anyone willing to sit and learn." Quite the contrary.

    Yes, the seculars and dati leumi are fed up with the black hats, not just in Israel, and with excellent reason. If this means war, so be it; and I'm on what's going to be the winning side in this conflict.

  3. Dave Martin says:

    There is something I do not understand! The history contained in the Hebrew Scriptures show that all able bodied men in ancient times, up to a certain age, participated in the defense of the Nation (Israel). Why then do these particular citizens refuse to take part in protecting their families and their fellow citizens when attacked by Israel’s enemies?

  4. Myriam Obadia says:

    Sorry, but the MK is very much mistaken. Moshe Rabenu never wore a streimel, never barred women from public life, mandated military service for all able bodied men, and -for the past 3400 years- Jewish men have earned a living and shunned "using the Torah as a spade". If anything, the way the Haredi live in Israel since the 1950s goes against nearly every Torah rule.

  5. Israel is not the only country where a Haredi Jew is barred from studying Torah as is his right. Throughout Europe and the USA, Jews are refused stipends or given too small of a one to permit him to properly study as Hashem requires. This open hostility toward the Haredi lifestyle needs to change.

  6. Reuven Ofir says:

    With all due respect to Rabbi Porush, 1. Jews did not wear clothing styled after Polish nobility circa 17-18th century back in the days of our prophets and kings in the land of Israel. 2. Back then Jews had to work for their living and most did, as farmers; as is said, "without bread there is no Torah". While under the Tsars of Russia or the Polish kings in Poland if they did not work, they did not eat, period! 3. Before being exiled from the land of Israel they served in the military when necessary to protect their families, their Torah, and their land. 4. Jews are prevented from studying? Jews are being killed for being Jew – in Israel? Shame on Rabbi Porush for such blatant lies.

  7. lrozalyn7345 says:

    What the Haredi rabbis will order a Holy war ( ie., fighting, conscription) if the
    State of Israel orders them to fight and defend Israel to preserve it from terrorists and Muslim Fundamentalists?
    This is Jewish thinking at its most brilliant? They won’t fight the terrorists but they will fight fellow Jews.
    This makes sense?
    Everyone must contribute to the safety of the state of Israel . If the Haredi rabbis are attacked by terrorists, would they not fight back? Would they just keep reading the Torah and studying?
    Acommodating   the Haredi with tax reductions, or limited sevice could be
    worked out; however the duty to defend Israel is not just for the non religious.
    Do they expect non religious Jews to protect their wives and children while they
    pray? Remember that you are allowed to break the Sabath to defend a life.
    No greater duty than to preserve life.  Even I know that and I am not a scholar.

  8. truthseekr says:

    If Jews aren’t supposed to fight to protect the Land of Israel, why does Torah state that newlyweds don’t have to fight, and that soldiers can break Kosher laws to save their lives? Moshe Rabbeinu led the fighting against our enemies in Torah.  The Haredim are polarizing Israelis and doing a dis-service to Hashem. His credibility is further nullified when he states they dress like Israelites at Sinai.  How much better would it be if the Haredi soldier could be a light to secular soldiers? But with this type of leadership, it looks like they will increase secularism rather than inspire anyone to greater heights. What a shame.

  9. Robin Schwartz says:

    His right to study–NOT his right to have taxpaying citizens support him. This is a post WW2 phenomenon. If someone wants to sit and learn kol hakavod, but let him find a gvir like they did in Europe. Someone who has the gift for fulltime study should be able to find one–let the rest become good, ehrliche balabatiim who can support learning, rather than batlanim living off of others.

  10. Ofer Maimon says:

    Rabbi Porush represent a small part of Ashkenazi Haredim, the part that think scare tactics will yield results. Most Haredim with a brain understands that this law will never come into force anyway…or rather not to a larger extent than they feel like….and that in another 4 years…an eternity in ME politics.

    As for them chumrot these Haredim love so much – Gemara, Shulchan Aruch and Mishne Torah all advice AGAINST taking on stringencies, so the claim that Haredism is from Mont Sinai is obviously fruitcaky,

    Baruch Hashem for all the smart Haredim who are woken up and are smelling the coffee. And starting to support their families and joining the army on their own volition. Time for both Hilonim and Haredim to give up their obstructions ways…

  11. Jacob Alperin-Sheriff says:

    This religious war over serving in Tzahal will be over very quickly seeing as how one side has no military experience or access to weapons.

  12. Azi Graber says:

    ever been hit in the head by a book? they have MILLIONS of them

  13. Jacob Alperin-Sheriff says:

    Azi Graber I feel like I have but (even though I came close once-long story) I haven't been shot by whatever firearm it is that Tzahal carries

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