The largest-selling haredi daily newspaper, Yated Ne’eman, wrote in its editorial on Wednesday that government policies toward yeshiva students were the proximate cause of the abductions of Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel.
And on Wednesday night, Rabbi Dov Lior, the chief municipal rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron and one of the most senior figures in the national religious rabbinical leadership, published a letter saying that the abductions were the result on the erosion of the sanctity of the family unit and a bill currently before the Knesset to change the conversion process.
In its Wednesday editorial, the mouthpiece of the non-hassidic political party Degel Hatorah spoke out strongly against Palestinian terrorist groups involved in the kidnapping, but claimed the government”s actions regarding Jewish practice were the underlying reason for recent events.
“Our dwelling here is not natural; the nation dwells here only in a miraculous manner. But this wicked government does everything in its power to uproot Judaism from the life of Jews living in Zion...,” the editorial said.
“When the government tries to reduce the number of Torah students, when it passes draconian laws designed to reduce and criminalize those who sit on the benches of the study halls, it exposes the country to tragedies,” it went on, referring to the law for haredi conscription passed in March by the Knesset.
“Statistically, every time they try to harm Torah students, something in the local harmony is disturbed,” the paper said. “When the government tries to carry out an organized abduction of Torah students from their place of learning, when it tries to kidnap soldiers from their bases and to reduce the true and only army that [gives] protection, the bowels of the land are enraged and it requests to vomit us out.”
The editorial said, however, that it was not looking for people to blame, saying everyone was equally guilty and that all Jewish people are responsible for one another. It added that God was speaking to the nation in its “own language” because it had not understood “other tongues.”
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a yeshiva dean and national religious leader, criticized the sentiment behind the editorial in an interview on the haredi radio station Kol Hai.
“I believe that God is behind all events but I do not understand the chutzpah of people to think they know the thoughts of Heaven and that somehow they are always in the right and what they thought beforehand is true afterward,” Cherlow told radio host Mordechai Lavi.
“The audacity to come and say, “I know how to interpret higher deeds and to say I know what you are doing wrong, and I know why you were punished,”” he continued, “contradicts Jewish law and the relationship between man and his fellow man, and in addition contradicts the framework of faith, because this is the job of a prophet.”
On Wednesday night Rabbi Lior published a letter, saying that recent laws in the Knesset addressing matters of religion and state were designed to “blur the uniqueness of the Jewish people and make it like the other nations, God forbid.”
“Unfortunately, we are witnesses to a severe deterioration in the approach of the government to the Jewish image of the state,” wrote Lior. There are aggressive laws whose common denominator is the erosion of the Jewish character of our public life, for example in the harm to the family unit, injury to the conversion process [as prescribed] by the Torah, and an attempt to harm the requirement that a convert accept the fulfil the Torah and the commandments.”
A bill to reform the conversion process and make it more accessible, advanced by MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) and drafted in conjunction with moderate national religious figures, has faced withering attack from the haredi sector and the chief rabbinate, as well as conservative elements in the national religious sector and elements in the Bayit Yehudi party.
Separately, soldiers in the Nahal Haredi unit serving in the West Bank have been involved the operation to find and rescue the abducted boys, and took part in the arrest of Hamas operatives and leaders over the past few nights.
The Nahal Haredi Foundation, which assists the soldiers throughout their service, said in a statement on Wednesday that “besides conducting arrests, the soldiers pray relentlessly for the safe return of the kidnapped boys and read Psalms for their release.”
The foundation added that “entrusting the haredi soldiers with arrest operations in recent days testifies to the high confidence the upper echelons of the military command have in it as a result of its many achievements over the past year.”