Wednesday, Jun 12, 2024

Will Yeshiva Students Be Jailed On August 18?

Technically speaking, many yeshiva students will become eligible for the draft on August 18, and failing to enlist may brand them as deserters. The reason for this is simple. During the past few months, thousands of bochurim received draft summonses ordering them to join the army starting August 18. The old Tal Law which deferred yeshiva bochurim was struck down as unconstitutional by Israel High Court, and the new deferral law based on the Perry Committee's proposal approved last week is unlikely to be passed until winter. So from August 18 onwards, an increasing number of bochurim will be in limbo. Technically speaking, they will be eligible for the draft like other Israeli teenagers.

Liberal organizations jumped at this window of opportunity. Chiddush, the Forum for Citizen Equal Rights and Obligations, Yisrael Chofshit, and former MK Aharon Brizon petitioned the government claiming that with the expiration of the Tal Law and no replacement law, the state must stop funding Israel’s 54,000 yeshiva students immediately and draft the thousands of bochurim born in 1994/95 whose draft summons require them to enlist starting August 18.


The government replied in the name of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that recruiting the bochurim would be inconsistent with the spirit of the new Perry proposal even if it is not actually passed by August 18.


“In accordance with plans for enlistment, thousands of orders were sent calling yeshiva students for the years 1994 and 1995 to present themselves for military service, with the first of these conscripts supposed to present themselves on August 18 this year,” Weinstein wrote. “In light of the current situation, the new draft legislation substantially changes the legal position of the issue, and the possibility of deferring the date for presenting them for enlistment is being weighed.


The liberals were not satisfied. One attorney representing them said that “postponing the recruitment… will be in complete opposition to previous High Court rulings. It will be a decision that is not worth the paper on which it is printed and it would be best if Ya’alon decided against postponement.”


The Movement for Quality Government in Israel threatened that if Weinstein failed to withdraw his conciliatory statement, the movement would appeal to the High Court.


Yesh Atid leader, Yair Lapid, urged Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu to pass the draft legislation this summer. He pointed out that according to their coalition agreement, the draft bill was supposed to be passed in tandem with the budget, which has to be authorized by July 31. In response, Netanyahu will ask the heads of his coalition parties whether they agree to speed up the process. The Habayit Hayehudi party may demand more time in order to introduce a number of changes in the bill including the removal of the “criminal sanctions” clause.


“If the law does not pass by the end of the month there will be dramatic ramifications in terms of the High Court which allotted a clear deadline to resolve the issue.” Yesh Atid explained. “Also, there are obviously the thousands of call up orders already sent to chareidim. The concern is that without the [speedy] approval of the law the call up orders will be canceled and their recruitment postponed.”


Lapid was adamant that come what may, within three years, 70% of the chareidim will be drafted into the IDF.


“The reform will not become effective in three years time but immediately. Immediately after it passes, close to 30,000 chareidim will receive letters informing them that they may leave the yeshivos and join the workplace,” he said, presuming that vast numbers will leap at the opportunity to work.


“70% of the young chareidim will already be drafted into the IDF or national service, a similar percentage to those drafted from the secular populace,” he added. “Despite the threats of chareidi leaders they will enlist, because if not, they won’t get their checks. And whoever doesn’t come to an induction center will get an injunction and go to jail. Why should my son enlist and theirs not?”


“I am very concerned about what will happen to Klal Yisroel,” Rav Aharon Leib Steinman said.


Besides advising increased tefillos, Rav Shteinman also advised doing something he mentioned last year. When the Catholic Church was burning seforim in Italy, the Ramchal cited two statements from the Zohar which intimate that the Torah only has power to overcome evil when Jews learn it without interruption. The Ramchal therefore instructed seven talmidim to learn Torah day and night in shifts. Whenever one stopped, another took over.


“Because the edicts have been renewed, there is a need to make a chizuk and learn in mishmaros for five days,” Rav Shteinman announced in one yeshiva. “Perhaps Hashem will have mercy, hear our prayers, and the edicts will become annulled.”   




Meanwhile, the Defense and Education Ministry plan to open a unique pre-military training program specifically for chareidi participants. The “Harei Tzion” program in the Jordan Valley will prepare teenagers for enlistment as they simultaneously participate in local social projects. Twenty teens have registered to begin the program in August.


Defense Minister Ya’alon also approved a four-year Hesder program for chareidim named Paths of Torah and Technology. Youngsters of 17 will spend two years of Torah study and two years of military service, in addition to learning a technological trade to provide them with a career after their service.


“We are in the midst of a historic, gradual process,” Ya’alon said of the programs. “The number of young chareidim who enlist in the IDF is continuously growing… We are not doing this in one fell swoop, but in a tolerant, gradual way, while simultaneously recruiting trend-setting leaders among the chareidi public, who are helping us implement a significant social process that will contribute greatly to the Israeli society and to the IDF.


“I am convinced that the young chareidim who complete the pre-military program or the Hesder program will integrate into the military in a way that will allow them to contribute to society, to the IDF and to the Israeli economy. I welcome this step and I know that as long as we maintain this responsible and mindful policy of encouraging and guiding rather than hatred and delegitimization, the number of chareidi recruits will grow, just as it has in recent years.”




Even as the governments works on legislating the Perry Committee’s expensive proposal to draft bochurim, and even as the army invests a fortune creating special programs for chareidim, the army is planning to get rid of 3,000 to 5,000 career soldiers besides downsizing and closing tank units, artillery units, and various units of the navy and air force in order to slash about $6 billion from their budget over the next three years in the largest IDF cut in history. Will this endanger Israel’s security?


The army is disguising the calculated risk as a remolding of a new army, claiming that massive armed offenses are a thing of the past and that the IDF must adapt to new modes of combat.


“We are not enslaved to technology — we are using it and adapting it to the new reality wherein the army versus army conflicts that we last saw 40 years ago in the Yom Kippur War are becoming less and less relevant,” Defense Minister Ya’alon said.


“[The reforms] will help fighters operate with greater efficiency, while at the same time exploiting their human and technological advantages that will allow them to achieve victory in battle swiftly and decisively,” he added. “Due to the changing threats around us and the capabilities that the IDF has developed, we have concluded that we must lead a meaningful reform and not one that shall enslave the future for the sake of the present… The foreseeable future is leading us to battles which will be determined by superior IDF technology, in the air, land and sea, with less heavy tools and through increasing use of sophisticated and unmanned technology which give us a significant advantage over any enemy.”


Brig. Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu, the former IDF spokesman, claimed that the proposed cuts were not due to budget pressures but were planned years ago in response to threats Israel expects to face over the coming 10 years.


“There isn’t an enemy that you can see through binoculars on the horizon,” he said, claiming that Israel’s neighbors are unlikely to declare war against Israel in the near future.


“The conventional threat is no longer relevant anymore,” he added. “We have three main threats — Hezbollah, Hamas and the terror in Sinai. These are things that can alter our lives but not threaten our lives.”


But Dr. Eitan Shamir of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, the former head of the National Security Doctrine Department in the Strategic Affairs Ministry said that the cuts need to be balanced so that the IDF doesn’t become helpless in the face of a multi-front war on the northern and southern borders.


“There’s an old saying by Winston Churchill — ‘Gentlemen, we’ve run out of money. Therefore we need to start to think’ — I hope this is what they’re doing and it’s in a real and deep way, but only time will tell,” he said.




The chareidi division of the Likud party asked it to rethink the concept of army service and protested the government persecution of chareidim.


“The Likud office must reexamine its stance regarding a professional army, especially as the IDF itself claims it doesn’t need a large proportion of its draftees,” they wrote to senior party members. “It is logical to let the IDF choose people it really wants, pay them properly, give them academic training, and invest the highest level of professional training in them. Incidentally, this would also avoid the problem involved in drafting minorities.”


“We suggest that the Likud party and its constituents declare absolute opposition to the populist proceedings which are, in essence, an attack against Israel’s minorities. Instead, it should work for the rights of the person and citizen, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of the individual, and equal rights and opportunities for all Israeli citizens.”  


At the same time, Rav Yoel Schwartz, famous founder of the chareidi Netzach Yehuda-Hanachal HachareidiBattalion, sharply attacked the government policy of forcibly drafting yeshiva students and announced that in protest he was ceasing all his activities in connection with the battalion.


Another protester was Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of Yisroel Beiteinu. Speaking to Jews expelled from Kush Katif eight years ago, he said that coercing yeshiva students to enlist was the same sort of mistake as the expulsion was.


“I said the disengagement was a mistake a long time before it happened,” he said. “I hope that by now, many have learned the lesson and understand that even if something has majority support and the majority decides, the majority isn’t always right.


“As we find ourselves facing all kinds of issues, including important things like shivyon banetel, even when there is a majority we must sit down and think whether the majority is right. Is this the right path? Is this the right way to achieve the important objective of integrating chareidim into the army and workplace or are we once again distancing ourselves from the goal only because someone has a majority?”




18 MKs of UTJ and Shas sent a letter to the Habayit Hayehudi asking the party to cancel cuts to yeshiva budgets and they received a positive reply.


“The time to vote for the 2013/14 Budget Law and Arrangements Law is drawing close,” the letter stated. “We ask you to return what the budget proposes to be cut from the funding of yeshivos and Torah and chinuch institutions. In return, we promise that if your vote leads to a decision to remove you from the coalition, we will not enter the coalition in your place.”


At the same time, Roshei Yeshivos appealed to MK Nisson Slomiansky of Habayit Hayehudi in his capacity as Chairman of the Monetary Committee.


Naftali Bennett already promised that he would prevent cuts to the Hesder and Zionist yeshivos. Now, Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Eli Ben Dahan promised that the cuts to chareidi yeshivos would also be alleviated.


“Recently, and particularly in the past few days, I have been speaking to relevant people and with Hashem’s help I succeeded to reach understandings according to which the yeshivos will not be cut as presently intended,” he said. “Everyone in the party has an obligation to study Torah and preserve the Torah world. ..We are making great efforts to significantly minimize the damage to yeshivos.


Four Habayit Hayehudi MKs stated they will vote against the 2013/14 budget and its arrangements law unless its anti yeshiva trimmings are cut so size. The four, Orit Struck, Zvulun Kalfa, Yoni Chetboun and Moti Yogev, explained that the deep cuts planned for Hesder yeshivos were unreasonable and would lead to their collapse. Their opposition also extended to the planned cuts against chareidi yeshivos, which threaten to reduce their budget from over one billion shekels to 400 million shekels.


Party Chairman Ayelet Shaked said she did not regard the four MKs as rebels as their sentiment was shared by the whole party.


“All the party members think there is room to fix the yeshiva budget and I believe that by the time it comes to present it to the Knesset it will be significantly improved,” she said.




Mir Yeshiva of Yerushalayim decided to change a 200 year policy and will now be asking parents of bochurim to pay between 400-800 shekels a month for tuition.


Since the passing of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the yeshiva only managed to cover part of the debts it incurred since the 2008 recession. At the time of the Rosh Yeshiva’s passing, the yeshiva asked bochurim’s parents to voluntarily pay a monthly sum of 400 shekels to the yeshiva as a donation. Now, the yeshiva has decided that bochurim will have to pay 400 shekels a month, while those living in the yeshiva dormitories will pay 800 shekels a month.




Rav Ovadiah endorsed his son Rav Yitzchok rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chazon Ovadiah as his candidate for the Sefardi chief rabbi election taking place in a week’s time. Previously, it was thought that he favored his oldest son Rav Avrohom for the position. He also said that Shas will support Rav Dovid Lau, rov of Modi’in, as candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi. Last week, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman expressed his support of Rav Lau.


Rav Ovadiah repeated his decision to favor Rav Yitzchok during his Motzoei Shabbos shiur in the presence of his four sons, Rav Avrohom, Rav Yitzchok, Rav Dovid, and Rav Moshe, adding that Rav Shlomo Amar had promised to back Rav Yitzchok for the position.


“Heaven is my witness that my intent is lesheim Shomayim, for the good of the Jewish people,” he said. “My beloved son, Rav Yitzchok, authored about 40 seforim, 38 volumes of Yalkut Yosef, and with the potential to write many more. I publicly declare with health and with certainty that my beloved Rav Yitzchok is our choice for the position of chief rabbi of Israel. He will continue glorifying the Torah and benefitting the public; for this there is nothing greater than disseminating Torah as it says, For they are our lives and the length of our days.


“I bless my son Rav Avrohom of whom the verse says, He who listens to advice becomes wise. I advised him to withdraw in favor of his brother, Rav Yitzchak. How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together. May they be blessed from above.”


Rav Ovadiah urged the 150 members of the voting committee to vote for Rav Yitzchok and to encourage others to do the same.


With the support of his father and of Rav Amar, Rav Yitzchok will probably win race. Until now, another contender, Rav Tzion Boaran had a good chance of winning the position because he had Rav Amar ‘s support. But with Rav Amar now backing Rav Yitzchok, Rav Boaran’s chances are slim. Another weak contender, Rav Yehuda Deri, brother of Aryeh Deri and a mechutan of Rav Yitzchok Yosef, said he will withdraw his candidacy.


“I will never run against a candidate of Rav Ovadiah Yosef,” he said. “I will only compete if the situation changes. Whatever Rav Ovadiah Yosef says, I will do; I will not turn right or left.”


A fourth contender for the Sefardi chief rabbi’s seat, Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, is suffering legal obstacles due to complaints about comments he made against Arabs and secular judges. He received a letter from the Justice Ministry saying, “Initial examination of all the information given and presented about you indicates that choosing you for the high office [of the chief rabbinate] may be alleged improper and trigger legal difficulties.”


In response, Rav Shmuel said that comments he allegedly said were either misquoted or taken out of their Torah context. He also pointed out that every time people complained to the attorney general against elected officials of the Arab sector who made extreme statements in support of terror or elected officials suspected of various crimes, the attorney general never declared they were unfit to be elected. Why was he different?


The most recent addition to the list of Sefardi contenders is Rav Eliyahu Abargel, head of the avos batei din of Yerushalayim, rosh yeshiva, and rov of the Baka neighborhood of Yerushalayim.


The two main contenders for the position of Ashkenazi chief rabbi are Rav Dovid Lau and Rav Dovid Stav who have about equal chances of winning the race. However, a third contender, Rav Yaakov Shapiro, might draw off about 10-15 votes off from Rav Lau. Rav Shapiro’s supporters claim that he is more likely to succeed than Rav Lau as he is supported not only by chareidim but by Religious-Zionists as well because he is Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz Harav.


Many of Rav Stav’s votes may be drawn away by fourth contender Rav Eliezer Igra who is supported by a number of Religious-Zionist rabbonim. So far, Rav Igra has turned down Rav Stav’s appeals for him to drop out of the race.




At Rav Ovadiah Yosef’s Motzoei Shabbos shiur, Rav Sholom Cohen, a member of the Moetzes Gedolei Torah of Shas, angered the Habayit Hayehudi party by castigating its leaders and constituents.


“The verse states, For with a hand on the throne (keis) of G-d, G-d’s war against Amalek will be for all generations,” he said. Chazal say that the throne will not be complete so long as Amalek still exists. What is the meaning of the throne being incomplete? Keis stands for kipah serugah (knitted kipah). So long as the kipah serugah exists, the throne will be incomplete. When will the throne be complete? When there is no kipah serugah.


He also criticized the party’s candidate for the chief rabbinate, Rav Dovid Stav.


Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi, took great offense at Rav Cohen’s remarks.


Bennett claimed that his party is fighting to alleviate the edicts against Torah learning, even while admitting that his deal with Yair Lapid brought the edicts about in the first place.


“Habayit Hayehudi is tirelessly working to minimize the harm to Torah and it is succeeding (yes, even from far off China I turned worlds concerning this). Also, with great success, Habayit Hayehudi has made the shivyon banetel program more balanced in relation to the chareidi world and arranged that it recognizes Torah study as a national value, yet despite this, Habayit Hayehudi is Amalek.”


In response, it was clarified that Rav Cohen was not referring to all wearers of knitted kipot: “The statements made during the shiur were said in great pain and referred exclusively to the leaders of the Habayit Hayehudi party and their supporters who have proclaimed war against the Torah world and yeshivos. Chalilah to ascribe what he said to regular Jews who are more priceless than gold.”




Organizers of the huge social protests of two years ago tried to revive them this week. At a press conference in Tel Aviv, organizer and activist Daphni Leef said that Lapid rode into government on their back but was doing little to help them since he got in.


“Lapid, you rode on the social protest, but in one night you turned into an even worse backer of Netanyahu’s policies. You talk like a protester but you don’t act like one. You play with people’s hopes. You ask us to keep the ember of hope burning for another two years [to give you time]. But I have news for you. Today we know much more than we did before. We don’t have two years to wait. You are a cynical liar. You rode on the protest movement to collect more votes.”


Thousands rallied at a protest on Motzoei Shabbos, chanting slogans against Netanyahu and Lapid as they marched through Tel Aviv’s main streets and blocked lanes of a major Highway.


“We will not stand idly by as the elderly and children are thrown into the streets and people are pushed under the poverty line,” Leef said. “We will not stand idly by as youths give up hope and leave the country. We pay taxes, it is our money, it was not intended to privatize our lives to the benefit of the tycoons. We must continue to fight and be responsible for our own lives.”




Under pressure, the Knesset meanwhile removed from the budget a cut in the wages of mikveh attendants and rabbis of small and peripheral towns. It threatened to destroy the jobs of these 574 employees. The budget intended to move the burden of paying 60% of their salaries onto local administrations. Heads of the local administrations said they could not afford to foot the bill.


Under pressure from Chairman of the Interior Committee of the Knesset Miri Regev and Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Rav Eli Ben Dahan, Finance Minister Yair Lapid decided to reconsider the clause and the article did not come up for a vote this time round.


Dahan thanked Lapid “for his decision to reexamine this clause whose only ‘achievement’ would be to gravely hurt religious services in peripheral areas. The treasury will be wise to take the money they wanted to save from places with more ‘budgetary fat’ in reserve.”




The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism complained that Deputy Mayor of Yerushalayim Yitzchak Pindrus had no right to enlist the help of seminary girls to crowd out the Women of the Wall members from the Kosel’s ezras noshim on Rosh Chodesh Av.


In a letter to the municipality’s legal advisor, the organization’s lawyer complained that at a meeting held in advance of the occasion, Pindrus, MK Moshe Gafni, and Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman decided to call upon thousands of seminary girls to come to the Kosel as a protest against the Women of the Wall’s prayer meeting.


“In our opinion, it was wrong for the deputy mayor who is also in charge of chareidi education to call upon the seminary students to come en masse to the Kosel to protest against the prayers of Women of the Wall,” the letter said.


The letter argued that by doing so, Pindrus exploited his position as head of the city’s chinuch for his personal concerns.


“In these circumstances, we request to urgently examine the behavior of the deputy mayor and instruct him to refrain from every action that indicates, calls, or persuades students of the town’s institutions or heads of institutions, to go out for political, public, or any other sort of activities.”


“The students were from Yerushalayim and other places, and there were married women as well,” Pindrus responded. “Regarding the complaint, the seminaries were on vacation so that the girls did not come as part of their learning schedule. Also, to make things clearer, the seminaries are not funded by the municipality — if only they were. I am happy that I had the honor of participating in the protest.”



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