Haredi Yeshiva Deans in Israel who received an invitation to meet with the chairman of the Committee on Burden Equality, Minister of Science, Technology, and Space Yaakov Perry, refused most adamantly to show up, according to the Lithuanian Haredi newspaper Ha’peles.
In his letter to the Haredi deans, Minister Peri wrote that he is appealing to them personally, and inviting them to appear either before the committee or to talk to him in private and present their positions.
Peri told the deans that his committee is determined to set hard and fast rules on burden equality, but that it intends to act with maximum sensitivity to the needs of every segment of the population, in an attempt to avoid a split in the nation. The minister was asking the deans to provide him with a “comprehensive picture, cutting across sectors and political parties, which will help us in formulating the bill.”
According to Ha’peles, the yeshiva deans who received the letter made it abundantly clear that they would not recognize the authority of the Perry Committee.
The article in Ha’peles added an editorial note to the news report (it seems to be going around across the media these days), warning deans that “the Minister wishes to legitimize the work of the Committee and its dangerous goals, but it is clear as day that no teacher of Torah would fall into their trap and give recognition to the Committee that’s seeking to implement destructive goals.”
The newspaper report concluded:
“Minister Perry and committee members do not need to meet with heads of yeshivas to know about the steadfast resolve of the Torah world, which has been expressed and published several times by the gedolim of Israel and yeshiva deans. The entire purpose and of the new appeal is to wrap in beautiful words and soft expressions the declaration of war by the new government, which is seeking to lead to a culture war and undermine the foundations of the world of Torah and God fearing public.”
Meanwhile, a mini coalition crisis has been pitting members of the Perry Committee Likud representatives, headed by Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, against the Yesh Atid (Lapid) members. Likud is asking Yesh Atid to rescind the enlistment figures reached in the coalition agreements on the quota of yeshiva students absolved from military service.
Committee members suggested that the entity deciding which 1,800 students are picked to stay away from the army service would be comprised of a representative of the Ministries of Defense and Education, as well as members of the Yeshiva Deans Committee. The new entity would submit its list by mid-March each year.
The IDF representative on the Perry Committee, Brigadier General Gadi Agmon, argued that it was not likely that the deans of Haredi yeshivas would take part in the proposed entity. “And on what basis are they going to decide?” he asked.
Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) offered to hold a lottery to pick the 1,800 lucky candidates, while Minister Yaalon declared that he is opposed in principle to any exemption quotas – and with that he basically killed the carefully negotiated burden equality figures that Lapid’s and Netanyahu’s factions had signed on in the coalition agreement.
“We’re already seeing more Haredi soldiers,” the defense minister told the committee. “We can’t ignore that. We should allow the natural process of enlistment to take its course. Setting quotas will only push the Haredi the sector against the wall. My recommendation is to leave the matter of quotas open and to check [enlistment figures] again in five years. We should provide incentives: anyone who serves in the IDF should be rewarded more than someone who does National Service, who in turn should get a higher reward than a yeshiva student.”