Thursday, Jul 25, 2024

Draconian Draft Proposal Rolled Out

Seven weeks after its formation, the Knesset committee charged with formulating the much vaunted “shivyon banetel” released its proposal. Shivyon banetel, which translates as “sharing the burden,” was an effective demagogic slogan, calling for a halt to the draft deferment yeshiva students have enjoyed since the establishment of the state. Though there are no chareidim in the government or the committee, the proposal's release was greeted with howls of protest. Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, sought to quell them by threatening to quit the government and precipitate a coalition crisis if anyone on the committee dared to push the bill in the chareidi direction. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu put an end to the crisis, telling his defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, to back down from protesting Lapid's overreach and to sign on to the call for severe punishment for those who refuse to be drafted into the army.

The committee, headed by Lapid’s number-two man, Yaakov Perry, put forth a bill to replace the Tal conscription law that was struck down by the High Court last year. It would end the exemption of yeshiva students from army and national service that was in place over the past 65 years.


With the document’s release, Lapid leaped at the opportunity to regain his popularity, which was severely eroded over the past few weeks by his budgetary proposals.


He began by writing on Facebook of his party’s humble beginnings, stating how “all our meetings combined could have fit into a wedding a quarter the size of the Belzer wedding,” and how the party had won despite predictions that it wouldn’t pass the election threshold.


“This week, we were victorious again,” he exulted.


“The conclusions of the Committee for Equal Sharing of the Burden…are a tremendous victory not only for Yesh Atid, but far more for the State of Israel,” he wrote on Facebook. “It is no coincidence that the morning headlines of Yediot Acharonot and Yisrael Hayom, two papers that generally do not agree on anything, used the word ‘historical,’” referring to the committee’s proposal.


“Only two months after the government got underway, the Perry Committee brings an agreement that will lead to 70% of the chareidim being drafted three years from now. 28,000 other chareidim will enter the workforce and will only be able to defer service until the age of 21 at the latest (and even this deference will only be implemented if the IDF agrees to it).


“We ran under the slogan ‘We’ve come to make a change!’ Now, we are changing things. Enlistment of chareidim, a problem that has been a bleeding wound in Israeli society, has reached a solution that is agreed upon, sensible, logical, but also resolved and determined.


Instead of surrendering to various sectors, the state is once again behaving like a master who imposes his will.”


Lapid’s plans are likely to go nowhere, even if the bill passes the Knesset. Roshei yeshiva maintain that they will not cooperate with this latest effort to uproot Torah from Klal Yisroel, even if they and their talmidim risk being thrown in prison.


MK Meir Porush (UTJ) insisted that the proposal is “a miserable bill designed to crush the world of Torah. The future of our existence is in danger. There should be Knesset committees to reform the secular education [system] which creates criminals and murderers rather than for the recruiting of yeshiva students for army service,” he said.


“The enlistment reform bill is detached from reality and will not be implemented,” said Yaakov Litzman (UTJ). “The value of Torah studies does not need anyone’s affirmation or endorsement. We have always protected those who seek to study the Torah and we will not allow them to end up in jail. There was no chareidi representation at the committee because the goal of the Lapid-Bennett government led by Netanyahu was clear: to harm Torah students and hound the steps of a huge shomer mitzvos public under the guise of concern for equality of burden.”


Even the secular coalition chairman, Yariv Levin of Likud, shared their point of view, saying that the proposal was “an anti-chareidi campaign.”


The plan, which must be approved in the Knesset in order to become law, calls for a three-year grace period starting this August to give the army and civil service administration time to prepare for the anticipated flood of new recruits. Only a limited number of chareidim would be inducted during this time period. Initially, approximately 28,000 yeshiva students age 18 to 22 would have the choice to continue learning, serve in the army and civilian service, or enter the workforce without hindrance. By age 24, this group of learners would be exempt from enlistment altogether. The government hopes that this “generous” gesture will encourage thousands of bnei Torah to leave yeshiva and enter the workforce.


The proposal set quotas of how many bnei Torah should ideally enlist in the army and civilian service over the next three years: 3,300 in 2014, 4,500 in 2015, and 5,200 in 2016.


Following 2016, the law limits exemptions to 1,800 “exceptional scholars” of each recruitment year, in contrast to an estimated 7,000-8,000 bochurim presently exempted each year. The 1,800 learners would commit to learning until the age of 26. If roshei yeshiva refuse to cooperate in selecting the 1,800 exempted learners, the defense minister would establish a selecting criteria of his own.


Despite Lapid’s exuberance at the Perry Committee proposal, the army and civilian service are less delighted at the prospect of being invaded by large numbers of chareidim. Committee members were angry at the army for lowering its intake of bnei Torah and offloading the excess onto the civilian service.


“They got cold feet and decided to lower the military’s recruitment goals and increase the goals of joining the civil service instead,” they said. “There is no incentive for chareidim to make them enlist. This is total nonsense. The army is afraid that it will not meet the recruitment targets set for it and decided to reduce its own responsibility.”


The civilian service was also unhappy at the prospect of an increased chareidi influx in coming years.


“They have added goals without me being able to meet the present objectives,” complained Chairman of the Civil National Service Institute Sar Shalom Jerbi. “There is no way I can meet the objectives without real incentives. It’s impossible. They have set things without consulting us.”


This strengthened the chareidi argument that the equal burden campaign is more political than practical.


The Perry Committee’s initial draft stated that its tenets would be part of the Security Services Law, making the contravention of its clauses a criminal offense. This empowers the military police to track down non-conformers as army deserters. According to the bill’s provisions, bochurim drafted before they turn 18 would be liable to criminal persecution if they fail to show up at recruiting offices. They would be barred from leaving Israel and the yeshivos they attend would not receive government funding for them. Roshei yeshivos of yeshivos that submit false reports of bochurim in their yeshivos would be liable to criminal charges.


After being called up, yeshiva students would be able to defer national service until age 21 providing they prove that they are learning 45 hours a week or more. Talmidim taking professional training courses from the Economy and Trade Ministry would have to learn only 30 hours a week. Special funding would be available to help increase the capacity of existing and new training centers.


The proposal penalizes yeshivos that encourage students not to register in the army by cutting off their government funding, while yeshivos that actively encourage conscription are promised significant financial benefits. Yeshivos with a high percentage of draftees would be financially rewarded and would receive payment for their students who left the yeshiva to join the army. The program provides little financial incentive for individual enlisters.


As part of the stated goal to equalize the burden between religious and non-religious men and women, the initial Perry draft created new norms for other sectors of the population. It shortened the service of regular male soldiers from 36 months to 32 and lengthened the service of female soldiers filling essential positions from 24 to 28 months. The military service of Hesder yeshivos, which presently lasts for 16 months of a five-year program, was extended to two years. Most of these changes are slated to begin in 2016.


Even though they claim they want to equalize service for all of Israel’s citizens, Lapid and Perry went easy on Arabs.


Some condemned the Perry proposal for its deferment of bochurim until age 21 and the three-year delay before recruitment starts in earnest.


Chareidi men will keep getting married at a young age,” Eitan Kabel (Labor) wrote. “Some of them will get out of service altogether, and as for the rest, it will be so expensive to keep them [as soldiers] that it will not be worth it for the IDF to enlist them.


“Tens of thousands of chareidim who call Torahtheir trade will enter the job market without having made any contribution to the state, and the people who serve in the military will immediately suffer. If these are indeed the Perry committee’s conclusions, then we will take to the streets again.”


The Campaign for Equality of Burden organization complained that delaying the draft for three years will turn the project into sawdust.


“Yair Lapid is about to miss a historic opportunity,” the organization warned. “Instead of recruiting chareidim immediately, as mandated by the High Court of Justice, the reform offers an abstract outline for service in three years, by which time another government will be in office and the law will become null and void.”




So inconsistent and illogical was the Perry draft that five of the six members of the commission attacked it the day it was publicized.


At the behest of Yisroel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, committee member Yitzchok Aharonovitch said that he would never agree to any draft of yeshiva bochurim unless there was also mandatory conscription for Arabs.


“While the bill includes some important amendments [to the Security Service Law],” he said, “it still lacks several key articles, especially regarding the service of minorities [Arabs]. Unless the bill is revised, we won’t be able to vote for it.”


Another committee member, Housing Minister Uri Uriel of Habayit Hayehudi, said that the clause of the draft that lengthens Hesder service is “completely opposite” the party’s coalition agreement with the government and unacceptable to his party. He, too, said he would fight the discrimination against chareidim and that enlistment of Arabs should be obligatory and should include as many Arabs as chareidim.


“In Sunday’s deliberations, we will insist on [Arabs] serving no less than chareidim,” he wrote on Facebook. “It is unjust to demand that one sector bear more of the burden while not making the same demand of another. We will demand that the burden be equalized for all.”


In addition, his party, Habayit Hayehudi, says it is opposed to putting criminal charges on roshei yeshiva who do not cooperate. What really bothers them is that the bill targets Hesder students as well as chareidim.


Committee member Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua), who wrote the plan on which the proposal is based, declared that he is unsure whether to support it. He said that he opposes putting criminal sanctions on people who refuse to serve and on roshei yeshiva who refuse to cooperate.


“Would someone dream of placing criminal charges on school directors if the recruitment rates of their schools were unsatisfactory?” he said.


He also felt that Hesder yeshivos should spend as much time in active service as yeshiva students and that more benefits should be provided for chareidim who enlist early.


A fourth committee member, Minister Limor Livnat (Hatnuah), was concerned that criminal sanctions might torpedo the enlistment process.


Committee member Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (Likud) stated that he objected to criminal sanctions, saying that the integration of chareidim and Arabs would be achieved not through draconian measures, but through a gradual process.


Indeed, the only member of the committee not opposing some aspect of the plan is its chairman, Yaakov Perry.


Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said he needs two weeks to study the legal issues of the committee’s recommendations, but he did not object to the committee’s fine-tuning it in the meantime. This led to the committee meeting on Sunday night and the huge eruption that followed.




The Perry Committee members spent much of Sunday night trying to iron out their differences and vote on the bill’s clauses. The marathon meeting lasted from 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. and ended with a partial victory for Habayit Hayehudi. Since it turned out that even the army was not interested in lengthening army service for Hesder yeshivos, their army service will only be lengthened by one month, from 16 to 17 months. The committee rejected Yisrael Beiteinu’s demand for compulsory Arab participation in the civilian service.


The committee agreed to retain the clause that a bochur who ignores his initial army call-up will be liable to criminal sanctions, as well as the principle of exempting only 1,800 yeshiva students annually, but did not permanently authorize the clause imposing personal sanctions against roshei yeshiva who do not give information about their talmidim.


At 1:30 a.m., the meeting broke up after an acrimonious argument exploded between committee chairman Yaakov Perry and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. The point of conflict was whether bochurim should be subject to criminal sanctions if quota numbers are not realized.


Yaalon insisted that hatred and delegitimizing of chareidim will not advance the shivyon banetel (burden sharing) cause and that criminal sanctions should not be automatic. In his view, the relevant clause should read: “If the quota of a certain year is not filled, the government will be permitted to activate the rules of the Law of Service and Security [which apply criminal sanctions] according to the opinion of the defense minister.”


Minister Limor Livnat pointed out that it is unfeasible to imagine police trucks entering Bnei Brak and dragging tens of thousands of Torah students to prison. After conferring with his party boss, Yair Lapid, Perry broke up the meeting without reaching a conclusion.


Yesh Atid was furious, saying that the stance of Yaalon breached the coalition deal, which guaranteed personal financial sanctions against chareidi draft dodgers. This could lead to the coalition’s collapse, they warned. The disagreement was reminiscent of when Shaul Mofaz left Netanyahu’s coalition in 2012 after Netanyahu refused to support a law punishing chareidim who refused to serve. The difference is that Mofaz’s departure didn’t cause a coalition crisis, as Lapid’s departure would.


Indeed, Mofaz pressed Yesh Atid to stand strong against the chareidim.


“I call upon the people of Yesh Atid to not forgo the principles for which they entered Netanyahu’s government,” he said. “They must not surrender.”


In the Knesset on Monday, Yaalon said that Lapid was motivated by hostility to the chareidi public.


“Yesh Atid wants to burn the chareidi street and I will not be part of that,” he said.


Yaalon added that Lapid was wrong and that the terms he wanted in the Perry draft were not part of the coalition deal between the two parties.


But Lapid vowed he would not give way.


“I want to make it very clear that if there is no equality of burden, the government will dissolve,” he told the Knesset.


“Anyone who thinks that Yesh Atid will fold over the question of equality of burden simply doesn’t understand or know us. Any attempt to torpedo the Perry Committee to move in the direction of chareidi politicians will lead to the disintegration of this coalition.”


“It’s unclear what Yesh Atid is so angry about…,” the Likud party responded. “It’s unclear why they need to run to the media and spout all kinds of accusations instead of continuing to participate in discussions until we reach an agreement. Could it be that Yesh Atid is still licking its wounds following the harsh criticism of the state budget? Someone is trying to confuse the public and deflect criticism.”


On Tuesday, Lapid added that “any attempt to stop the committee’s work will lead to the collapse of the coalition. There’s a historical opportunity to correct an injustice, to heal a wound at the heart of Israeli society.


“Anyone who harms this opportunity…is sinning against Israel, Zionism, the Israeli army and every young person who enlisted in the army.


“All the other parties in the coalition, particularly the Likud, should pull themselves together. It’s time they conducted themselves properly and stopped playing games, which endanger the survival of the government.”


Moshe Gafni (UTJ) told the Knesset that Lapid was trying to cover up his deficiencies in the Finance Ministry by attacking the chareidim.


“I would like to tell you a story that happened or did not happen, I don’t remember; you decide for yourselves,” he said. “Some people sitting somewhere in Tel Aviv figured that if their party leader [Lapid] took over the Finance Ministry, it could be problematic if things happened that further harmed the middle class, even more so than when the state began. But they consoled themselves by saying: ‘We’re fortunate that Israel has chareidim. So long as there are chareidim, we can bounce the anger onto them by reciting the mantra, ‘Equal bearing of the burden!’”


Indeed, Lapid cancelled important finance-related events to focus on his pet issue of going after the chareidim. He cancelled a trip to an overseas conference of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation) finance ministers and a planned appearance at the Knesset’s Finance Committee. In continuation of his Knesset speech, Gafni warned that waging war against Torah learning might lead to dangerous consequences.


“As a believing Jew, I want to tell you that we are playing with fire,” he said. “This is what we believe in. When people left the Torah alone, there was security. Syria seemed far away and the situation was quiet. Israel’s credit rating rose, and economically speaking we were doing very well. But when the Torah came under attack, Syria suddenly seemed close by and missiles were aimed at Tel Aviv. I believe this with perfect faith and so do thousands and perhaps millions of others. There are no chochmos about this. The Torah has been attacked.


“Forget about teaching us what we should do,” he concluded. “We will not change.”


When asked why he was trying to frighten the public with threats of missiles from Syria, Gafni replied, “I am telling you what I believe in.”


MK Amram Mitzna (Hatnuah) argued that the soft approach is best.


“There is no small amount of hypocrisy in the shivyon banetel debate,” he wrote on Facebook. “Is there equality among those who enlist today? Do we know what it will cost to enlist chareidim and provide positions for them in national service? Do we understand the differences this will make to the character of the IDF as an army of the people? …Do we have the stomach to see photos of chareidi youngsters dragged to prison by military police?


“The first thing we should do is free them from the status of ‘deferment’ and allow them to go out to work,” he added. “Then we should make a system of positive and negative incentives for those who enlist or don’t enlist.”


“Let’s remove the beam from between our eyes and stop the hypocrisy,” he wrote. “Let’s put aside bullying and verbal violence in dealing with others and this will bring about a social change.”


Netanyahu acceded to Lapid’s requests. On Monday night, he instructed Yaalon to vote in favor of financial and criminal sanctions against Torah students who do not enlist.


On Tuesday, MK Menachem Moses blasted Netanyahu in a Knesset speech, saying he had betrayed the Torah public.


“The prime minister is abetting the closing of Torah institutions by threat of throwing their students into prison,” he said. “He succumbed to the will of the person who is setting the state’s agenda, Economy Minister Lapid. This totally opposes the opinion of the professional appointed to this matter, namely the previous head of command and present minister of defense, Moshe Yaalon, who decided that bachurei yeshiva should not be enlisted without the input of army officials.


“The prime minister does not realize that the reigns of national leadership are slipping from his hands,” he added. “With his decisions, he is willingly handing power to Minister Lapid.”  


Defense Minister Yaalon still maintains that integration of chareidim in the army must be a gentle process.


“Some people just don’t understand that you can’t change a reality that has been in place for 65 years in one fell swoop or by threatening entire sectors in society,” Yaalon told reporters on Tuesday. “The moment we attack a community and threaten it with going to prison, we cannot hope for its integration. I believe we will overcome the political dispute and I think that the final draft will be different, because the present draft is unacceptable as far as I am concerned.”


He said that there is contact with Yesh Atid over the bill’s wording.


Meanwhile, the Perry Committee is back on track. If the Perry committee agrees to a finalized enlistment proposal, it will be submitted to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. From there, it will pass on to the cabinet for deliberations and then it will be put to a Knesset vote. This should happen within a few weeks. Sadly, according to a poll organized by the Knesset, 67% of the Israeli public favor imprisoning chareidim who fail to serve, and only 28% oppose it.


Rav Aharon Leib Steinman issued a letter Tuesday stating that to cancel the evil decree hanging over the heads of chareidim is through Torah and tefillah.


“To our sorrow, destroyers and wreckers have risen from among our nation and plot to uproot the Torah and its students. Never before have Jews arisen to forbid Torah study and to prevent our involvement in the holy Torah. Woe to us that this has happened in our time.”


Rav Shteinman wrote that although we have no novi to tell us exactly what we must do to annul the harsh decree, perhaps our Torah study is deficient. Therefore, we must learn more, especially in times like Fridays and Shabbos. As it states in Nefesh Hachaim (4:16), when calamity strikes, a person should run to places where Torah is studied, as the posuk says, “Come, my people, enter your chambers and shut your doors about you. Hide a short moment until the wrath passes(Yeshayahu 26:20).


He added that we must daven and beg Hashem to remove all decrees from us.


“With this, we appeal to all those who seek to harm the students of Torah, ‘Do not touch My anointed ones,’” he concluded. “For at this time, when the enemies of Yisroel are coming against us to destroy us, G-d forbid,only the holy Torah protects us. Do not hurt or decrease Torah students, for this involves a danger to body and soul, chalilah.


To this, Rav Chaim Kanievsky appended: “With the help of Hashem,all the above is obvious and clear, and this is the only way to cancel the decree.”


Rav Eli Ben-Dahan, Deputy Minister of Religious Services (Habayit Hayehudi), said on Tuesday that the coalition agreement codifies that there should no personal sanctions against yeshiva students who don’t enter the army. He said that he believed that his party would demand that the agreement would be adhered to. He added that he thought that although bnei yeshiva who don’t sign up for the army would be breaking the law, it would be improper to penalize people for learning Torah.


A poll released Tuesday indicated that 67% of Israelis support jailing chareidi students who avoid army duty, while 28% oppose jailing the bochurim who learn instead of serving. The pool also said that 64% are in favor of extending the shortened service of bochurim in the Hesder arrangement.




Despite Bennett’s constant talk of yearning to help his chareidi brothers,the Ministry of Economy he heads targeted chareidi businesses with surprise raids between the 26th and 30th of May, inspecting whether workers’ rights were being observed. Perhaps it is this sort of duplicity that led to Rav Shteinman’s cancelling of a meeting Bennett was to have with Jewish philanthropists arriving in Israel during coming weeks.


The chareidi world feels as though it is under siege. Last month, many chareidi families who recently made weddings received letters from the income tax authority demanding a report of who supplied them with services such as catering, music and photography, in addition to itemizing how much they paid.


Government agencies are finding inventive ways of slashing Torah budgets beyond the cuts instigated by the Finance Ministry. Last week, directors of elementary school-level yeshivos received an Education Ministry letter informing them that the ministry would be reducing funding drastically. Hundreds of yeshiva directors were shocked by the giant cut and are working to have the plan overturned.


“I am absolutely dumbstruck,” said one director. “Because the education ministry has a hole in its budget next year, it simply filled the deficit by cutting extra hours from government recognized schools and chadorim.”


An edict not specifically against chareidim seeks to expunge a 2008 law that exempts newly arrived immigrants from reporting their assets abroad for ten years. Erez Chalfon, deputy head of Nefesh B’Nefesh and former Absorption Ministry director general who initiated the 2008 bill, says that the bill helped double the number of North American and British immigrants. Hundreds of potential immigrants told him they’ll cancel their immigration plans if it is annulled.


The Tax Authority explained that the bill is being annulled not only to bring money to Israel’s coffers, but also due to international criticism at the existence of a tax haven for favored citizens.




In line with the Lapid-Bennett dream of a new Israel, the feminist fight at the Kosel spurred a new proposal. The chairwoman of the Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women, MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), proposed a bill, co-sponsored by 10 MKs from Yesh Atid, Hatnuah and Labor, that would divide the Kosel plaza equally between men and women.




Rav Eli Ben-Dahan’s recent statement was a reflection of Habayit Hayehudi’s liberal leanings.


“Every Jew, including Reform and Conservative, will be able to immerse in a mikvah, even for the purpose of conversion,” he said in response to a question posed by Yitzhar Hess, executive director and CEO of the Masorati (Conservative) Movement in Israel. Ben-Dahan explained that he was “striving to foster competition in the delivery of religious services with the purpose of making them more efficient and user-friendly, for the benefit of all citizens. Religious services are there for all of Israel’s Jewish citizens, and everyone should be able to utilize them. I would like to emphasize that these services are given in accordance with Jewish law.”


When Conservative, Reform and liberal circles congratulated Ben-Dahan for advocating real change, he said that the country’s mikvaos would only operate according to halachah.


“The mikvaos are public buildings, open to anyone. This has been the policy all along,” he said. “The mikvaos operate according to the law governing religious services and will continue to function according to Jewish law.”


Of course, this aroused the wrath of all those who praised him for his earlier statement. They assured him that if he returned to their side, they would again congratulate him. They voiced the hope that Ben-Dahan would live up to his original commitment to allow Reform and Conservative converts avail themselves of Israel’s government sponsored mikvaos.




Shabbos is also being undermined in Israel. Two weeks ago, the historic Ottoman railway station near the quaint German Colony neighborhood in Yerushalayim reopened. The cultural and culinary complex has a non-commercial status and allows many of its businesses to remain open on Shabbos. In contrast, an overwhelming majority of businesses in Yerushalayim close for Shabbos and an increasing number of restaurants began closing for Shabbos in order to receive a hechsher.


In the new center, the businesses open on Shabbos include an ice cream vendor, a visitor’s center, a bicycle renting station, a gallery, a pub, and twenty arts and crafts stalls. This is enough to create a weekday ambience never before seen on the Jewish side of Yerushalayim. Secularists hope that this trend will halt the growing religiousness of Israel’s capital. Lack of Shabbos activities is an important factor in the gradual exodus of secular Jews from the holy city.


Another factor affecting the Jewishness of the holy city is the building freeze in effect in many of its neighborhoods. Chaim Miller, head of the chareidi Movement for Yerushalayim and its residents, says that Israel’s quiet acquiescence to American demands that Israel cease building in areas claimed by the Palestinian Authority has led to a halt of building in much of the capital.


This includes the chareidi neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, which is suffering due to U.S. condemnation of attempts to build new homes. Israelis cannot afford the scant housing available and have no choice but to leave the city while Arabs continue illegal construction and their population continues to grow.




Another incursion against halachah is the ongoing attempt to install additional liberal chief rabbis. In preparation for the June vote for new chief rabbis, the Knesset is trying to introduce the “Stern Law,” which seeks to expand the body voting for chief rabbis from 150 to 200 and add to its proportion of women voters. The law passed its first reading in the Knesset with a majority of 53 in favor and 14 against. The voting indicated the beginning of an ideological split in Habayit Hayehudi. Despite a party decision to vote for the law, only three MKs, including Bennett, were present. 12 revolted against Bennett and were absent.


Moshe Gafni (UTJ) expressed his resentment at the formulation of special laws favoring one candidate over another.


“This is a personal law meant to further the candidacy of a specific person,” he said. “The whole purpose is to prevent chareidim from getting into the chief rabbinate. Your goal is to destroy religion.”


Shas, too, issued an announcement that Habayit Hayehudi’s support of the Stern Law was a direct contravention of a promise Bennett’s party made to Rav Ovadiah Yosef.


Yet another erosion of chareidi strength came with the breaking down of the so-called “Amar-Ariel” law. For the past few months, Habayit Hayehudi has been saying that it would work with Shas to extend the term of present Sephardi Chief Rabbi Rav Shlomo Amar for a second term. In return, Shas would help facilitate the election of Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel as Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Ariel is president of the Tzohar organization, a group of “Orthodox rabbis dedicated to revitalizing the role of the rabbinate in Israeli society by engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the secular world.”


To vote in the two candidates, Shas and Habayit Hayehudi proposed the “Amar-Ariel Law.” This would enable Rav Ariel to run for chief rabbi. Under present law, since he is over 70, he is too old for the job. It is also necessary for the reelection of Chief Rabbi Amar, who has already served a 10-year-term; present law prevents him serving a second term.


Efforts to pass the bill collapsed on Sunday when Habayit Hayehudi pulled out from a ministerial vote on the issue, realizing that it would not command a majority. With their president out of the running, the Tzohar organization will lend its full support to the chairman and founder of Tzohar, the more liberal Rav David Stav. Rabbi Stav’s candidacy is opposed by conservative elements of Habayit Hayehudi but is supposedly supported by Bennett, Lapid, and others who seek to undermine halachah.


Shas denied that it is now pursuing a new deal, lending its support to Rabbi Stav in return for Habayit Hayehudi supporting the re-appointment of Rabbi Amar.


“Due to Rav Ovadiah Yosef’s absolute opposition to appointing Rav Stav to the exalted position of chief rabbi, the Shas movement opposes any deal in this matter,” Shas announced.



The Root Cause

  We have been living in turbulent times for a while, and this week, they got even more turbulent. Just a week after one party’s

Read More »


Subscribe to stay updated