After a joint meeting Monday night, the rabbinic councils of Degel Hatorah, Agudat Yisrael and Shas issued a declaration prohibiting yeshiva students from enlisting in the IDF.
The announcement constitutes a serious blow to government efforts to integrate haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men into national service and threatens to make legislation now being drawn up irrelevant.
“The Councils of Torah Sages demand from the authorities that they immediately cancel the decisions of the [Knesset enlistment] committee [providing for] the coercive drafting into military service of yeshiva students, and call on all yeshiva students not to enlist to the army in any way whatsoever, not to surrender to any blandishments and punishments, and not to cooperate with the army induction center for haredim, but instead to toil in their studies day and night,” said a statement issued after the meeting.
“We tremble before the terrible desecration of God’s name and the insult to the Torah that this matter has caused,” the statement continued.
“We are fearful of the results and are pained by the ongoing harassment of the Torah world.”
The rabbis threatened that if the bill in its current form is enacted, the councils will convene again and consider whether or not to instruct yeshiva students to ignore IDF notices calling on them to report to an enlistment center. Current law stipulates that anyone failing to report is a deserter and liable to arrest by the military police – something that has occurred in a few isolated cases of yeshiva students associated with a hard-line faction.
Over the past two years, the overwhelming majority of haredi men who have received preliminary enlistment orders have gone to a processing office, thus avoiding arrest.
A joint meeting of the three councils has never occurred before. It testifies to the grave view of the legislation taken by the haredi rabbinic leadership.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, MK Mordechai Yogev (Bayit Yehudi), an alternate member of the committee that reviewed the enlistment bill, said the joint statement was a “natural reaction to efforts of Yesh Atid to coercively draft haredi men,” adding that the issue of criminal sanctions had to be rethought.
Hiddush, a lobbying group that has campaigned for haredi enlistment but opposes the current legislation, also attributed the rabbis’ ban to Yesh Atid, which has been insistent that failure to serve be punished by imprisonment.
“The heads of Yesh Atid succeeded in recording a historic achievement in uniting the rabbinical councils against enlistment,” Hiddush director Uri Regev said.
“The achievement is especially impressive given that even the haredi politicos know there is no chance that the law will be implemented.”
Regev called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to “regain his composure and act as the responsible adult in the government, and force through the imposition of economic sanctions instead of the ridiculous delusion of criminal sanctions.”