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Haredi leader calls on Jews to dodge civil service
By JEREMY SHARON
12/10/2012
Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman warns against government decision to allow extra 1,3000 yeshiva students to skip IDF service.
 
The haredi daily newspaper Yated Ne’eman reported on Monday that Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the most senior rabbi in the haredi world, has called on yeshiva students not to enlist in the civilian service program, the framework designed as an alternative to military service for haredi men.

According to an article published in the newspaper that serves as mouthpiece for the Degel Hatorah political party, Shteinman’s comments were made in response to the government decision on Sunday to allow an extra 1,300 yeshiva students to enlist in the civilian service.

The article reported that “with the publication of the government decision yesterday, our rabbi and leader, the great Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, gave an instruction to warn the masses against this severe and dangerous phenomenon, whose only purpose is to undermine the foundations of our existence and is against the very essence and purpose of a yeshiva student which is to dedicate his life to Torah study.”

The article continued, saying that Shteinman explained that the haredi world had to “defend its existence” and take precautions “against all the new temptations of the leaders of the regime which damage the foundations of Judaism, whose only purpose is to create a dangerous erosion of students away from the sanctuary of Torah, and so people must be warned not to be enticed whatsoever to go to these services.”

Shteinman’s words were reported in a news article on page three of the newspaper and not published under his name and signature in a public decree on the front page, the usual format in which his proclamations are presented.

According to one haredi commentator, the irregular placement of the announcement could indicate that Shteinman is simply trying not to lose face and be out-maneuvered by more radical rabbinic leaders who have taken a harsher line than he on national service.

At the beginning of the last decade, Shteinman gave tacit support to the establishment of the Nahal Haredi combat battalion for ultra-Orthodox soldiers and the terms of the Tal Law, both of which were bitterly opposed by most of the haredi rabbinic leadership at the time.

In response to the report, the Hiddush religious-freedom lobbying group denounced Shteinman’s words and said that since the rabbi inherited the leadership of the haredi world he had “continued to lead the rejectionist haredi front to any compromise or form of integration like his predecessors rabbis Shach and Elyashiv.

“Shteinman has again proved that there is no partner for dialogue in the haredi leadership,” said Hiddush director, attorney and Reform Rabbi Uri Regev.

“It must be hoped that new and more fitting leaders will emerge from the haredi public, who will know how to lead the community to integrate into the economic life of the country and to share the burden of national service,” he added.
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