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October 9, 2015 / 26 Tishri, 5776
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Yesh Atid Education Minister’s Ruling Challenging Lapid on Draft

Rabbi Shai Piron (L) and Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid party chairman. (archive)

Rabbi Shai Piron (L) and Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid party chairman. (archive)
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster / Flash 90

Last Friday, Yesh Atid Chairman and Finance Minister Yair lapid threatened that he would fight to get both of Israel’s chief rabbis fired, because of their objection to drafting women into the military.

The website Srugim quipped that it had taken Lapid a mere 65 years to discover that the rabbinate has always opposed enlisting women, and so in his Facebook entry he responded to the news as if it had just happened:

“Israel’s chief rabbis have announced that they forbid girls to enlist in the IDF,” he wrote, with a sense of indignity that gave a freshness all its own to the “sin” committed back in 1948, give or take a year.

“This is chutzpa and a national scandal, and we will act to get them fired in the Knesset and in the government, and, if need be, through the justice system as well.”

Not exactly a Churchillian “We Shall Fight on the Beaches,” but close enough.

“These are state employees receiving a nice salary from the State of Israel, sitting in their comfortable offices, with their official cars, and announcing they disagree that girls would serve in the mud and the cold as infantry warriors, in flight school, in the Border Patrol, in Navy school,” Lapid pontificated, signing off with the threat: “David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef are not worthy of serving as chief rabbis of Israel.”

Israeli politicians do that every once in a while, making total fools of themselves by jumping head first into a complex issue about which they know next to nothing, only to emerge on the other end battered and bloody.

In this case, the sucker punch response came from Lapid’s Yesh Atid party’s no. 2 minister, Rabbi Shai Piron, formerly dean of a yeshiva; or rather, it began with an irate former student of Piron, who dug up a rabbinic ruling by hs rosh yeshiva, where he writes explicitly that he could not find a halachic scholar who permits drafting women into the army.

Piron wrote, originally: “The problem with the military service is the general atmosphere which does not permit life without needless moral capitulation. The pressure, the abnormal reality, is liable to emphasize the less pure aspects of the meetings between young men and women.”

Profoundly true and eloquent, in my vie. Rabbi Piron concluded that we should not go some places not because we’re certain something untoward would happen, but because we fear that the potential exists for such an outcome.

Piron’s student, Ran Churi, a community activist (yes, just like our president used to be), turned to his former dean and demanded to know whether he agrees with his party boss, that both chief rabbis should be fired on account of their objection to the women’s draft.

And Churi didn’t go easy on Rabbi Piron, challenging him: “I call on you to prove that the political game has not eroded your values, the place from whence you came, the title you acquired through hard labor and its very meaning. How should you prove it? You choose. But now you’re at a crossroads between being a politician with obligations to his party and a man with obligation to his values.”

Piron’s office released a short but clear statement, in response to an inquiry from Srugim: “Minister of Education rabbi Shay Piron believes that there are nearly no halachic authorities (poskim) who gave religious young women permission to enlist in the army. That’s what the two-year national service is for. But this position does not detract from the duty of all the young women to serve in the army.”

Obviously, Minister Piron is not interested in a fight with his boss over this issue. He picked a truly clever way to avoid such a fight with his student as well. His argument goes (say it with a yeshivish niggun): On the one hand, all the young women must serve in the army; but on the other hand, religious young women are prohibited from military service by practically all the halachic authorities. So if you’re not adhering to halacha, you should go in the army (good with boss); but if you’re religious, you shouldn’t (good with student).

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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