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MK Stern: Work in Chabad houses should count as national service
By SAM SOKOL
01/01/2014
The major-general in the reserves spoke during a meeting of Special Committee for the Equal Sharing of the Burden Bill.
 
Former IDF Manpower Directorate chief MK Elazar Stern called on Tuesday for the work of emissaries of the Chabad Hassidic movement abroad to be granted the status of national service The Hatnua lawmaker and major-general in the reserves spoke during a meeting of the Special Committee for the Equal Sharing of the Burden Bill. Stern hopes to make his proposal, which the committee passed by a 5-3 vote, a part of the government’s Equality of the Burden Bill.

Chabad emissaries engage in outreach work intended to bolster the religious practice and Jewish identity of secular Jews, but also engage in charitable work that has engendered public support from government officials and civil society leaders. Stern told The Jerusalem Post that Chabad houses serve as de facto “embassies of Israel” and that they provide services to Jews regardless of whether “they are religious or not.”

“They do much of their work under difficult conditions,” he added, explaining that giving such recognition to members of the hassidic movement would bolster connections between the ultra-Orthodox and the state.

While Chabad is non-Zionist, it is strongly pro-Israel.

Members of the movement tend to side with the national- religious camp on settlement issues and IDF service is not stigmatized in the community as it is among the members of other ultra-Orthodox groups.

While Chabad spokesmen declined to comment on the proposal, a source within the movement told the Post that emissaries increasingly are from abroad, although there is still a significant number of Israelis involved in the group’s foreign operations.

Rabbi Uri Regev, director of the Hiddush religious rights NGO, blasted the proposal, telling Globes sarcastically that the government should recognize the work of Sicarii extremists and members of modesty patrols as well, given the religiously motivated nature of much of the outreach work conducted by Chabad.

“If it were not so sad, it would be funny,” Regev said.
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