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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Haredim Close Ranks to Fight IDF Conscription

Rabbi Steinman: We must give up our lives pushing back conscription

Rabbi Steinman: We must give up our lives pushing back conscription
Photo Credit: Yossi Shachar/FLASH90

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According to Kipa, Members of the Haredi Knesset factions Sunday night met at the home of Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Steinman, a dean at the Ponovezh yeshiva and a leader of the Haredi Degel HaTorah party, to discuss the Haredi response to the High Court’s recent decision to annul the Tal Law. The decision could potentially force thousands of yeshiva students into military service.

“We have no existence without the Torah, over this issue we will give up our lives,” Degel HaTorah MK Moshe Gafni said at the conference .

Rabbi Steinman noted that “this is a big problem. Time and again they’re trying to harass the learners of Torah. Torah study is the most important thing for the people of Israel. We have no right to exist as a people without Torah. In all our history, the Jewish people survived because of the Torah, and over that we must give up our lives.”

Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman MK, taking time from his busy schedule handling a crippling hospital nurse’s strike, attacked the High Court’s decision in an interview with the Military Radio Sunday. He said that it was a “hit-and-run” by the outgoing president of the Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch. Litzman added,”The topic was on her desk four years and she waited until the last minute” to bring it on.

Donniel Hartman, who says his father “broke with his ultra-Orthodox brothers when I was drafted into the Israeli army,” wrote this morning in Ynet that “the forced conscription of the ultra-Orthodox community (and for that matter, the Israeli Arab one) is a mistake, and does not sufficiently take into account the current peculiar nature of Israel’s multinational Jewish identity.”

But Seth Freedman presents the more common Israeli view in the Guardian: “The massive Haredi birth rate sustains the Jewish element of the population. It also means that the proportion of Israel’s population who are ultra-orthodox has rocketed to more than 10%, with the vast majority of Haredi males going into yeshiva learning rather than completing their national service. Full-time Torah study used to be the preserve of only the most talented and able-minded scholars, while the rest worked for a living and contributed to the upkeep of the students.”

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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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5 Responses to “Haredim Close Ranks to Fight IDF Conscription”

  1. Zvi Ben Mordechai says:

    I did reserve duty for 11 before being (honrably) discharged. My wife had to live with the gnawing fear that the next knock on the door might be someone from the IDF Adjutant. In 3-4 years, we will have to drive our oldest son to an induction center & then we, as parents, will have to live with that fear. No offense but a haredi kollel student’s wife & sons are better than mine? Why don’t they & their wives have to deal with this? Nobody is saying that anyone who wants to learn in kollel full-time cannot do so, just that they ought not to be subsidized by the taxpaying, reserve duty-serving public. Ah, their Torah study sustains me? No thanks. There are plenty of hesder/Zionist yeshivot; I prefer to rely on the spiritual sustenance they offer. They don’t use the Holy Torah as a spade to dig with.

  2. Myriam Obadia says:

    I think that a little rational thinking on both sides should improve vastly the debate and the chance of resolution for this problem.
    Yes Torah learning is of foremost importance to the Haredi and the secular authorities must understand this, but it won’t be possible at all to study Torah if Haredi men refuse to sacrifice some time to defend the places of study. Yeshiva students, just like the rest of Israel, must serve in the army, because we are few against multitudes of enemies and they too need to defend the country so that the next generation is free and isn’t born under a master who will forbid the study of Torah the way the Greeks and Romans did to our ancestors.
    Yes, all Haredi men must study the Torah, but not everyone, even among the Haredim, is able to become a Rabbi or a Talmudist and the Torah itself demands that all men have a profession or a trade as well as refrain from using their sacred learning to make a living. While it is important that the secular government understands the Haredi community priorities, it is also important that the Rabbis also remember that their students do not live by learning and fresh water alone and that they need to train for and have a job to feed their families. Only then will we have peace and harmony among the Jews themselves.

  3. Mordecai Yehuda Zilbert says:

    I’m curious. Why isn’t Donniel Hartman (quoted above) referred to as Rabbi Donniel Hartman? Does the author contest his rabbinical credentials? If so, why?

  4. Zvi Ben Mordechai says:

    “…the secular authorities *must* understand this…”

    Myriam, how do you propose that they come to this understanding?

    I would respectfully submit that florid rhetoric (“We must give up our lives pushing back conscription” & “over this issue we will give up our lives”) is hardly the way to do it. Such talk only lends credence to the erroneous, yet widely held, view that all haredim are extremists.

    “all Haredi men must study the Torah”

    I thought Torah study is incumbent on all Jews, not just Haredi men. It is our ongoing challenge to take Torah to all Yidden. :-)

  5. Myriam Obadia says:

    Zvi, I propose that the secular government reminds the Haredi rabbis that, according to their own claim, it is hatred among the Jews which led to the destruction of the second Temple and 2000 years of exile and, that by refusing to carry their own part of the burden, they are causing further hatred among Jews, therefore delaying even further the coming of our Messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple.
    I sincerely doubt that Haredim would be sensitive to non-religious arguments.
    Of course, it is a mitzva for each Jew, but the article is about the skewed priorities of the Haredi community (and, as far as I know, the non-Haredi Jews have no problem finding time to a)study the Torah, b) serve in the military, c) get a job to feed their families. Maybe, that’s because they don’t waste their time spitting at little girls, colonizing the front of the buses, and throwing rocks on cars during the Shabbat)

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