In a historic gathering, the respective rabbinical councils of the two mainstream
Ashkenazi haredi political movements in Israel met Thursday night in Bnei Brak
to publicly express their opposition to the removal of the blanket exemption
from military service enjoyed by full-time yeshiva students.
HaTorah, the non-hassidic Ashkenazi haredi political party, and Agudat Yisrael,
the political party representing hassidic Jewry, are led by their own council of
Torah sages, which are both comprised of the leading rabbis of the respective
“We are greatly afraid and pained by the wave of dirty
incitement, coming from a handful of people, that is flooding the residents of
the Land of Israel against the haredim and the word of God,” the two councils
declared in a joint statement.
This incitement is directed in particular
towards “those who study the holy Torah – the beloved yeshiva students in whose
merit the world exists – who are engaged in Torah day and night, who are
elevated with a holy and pure fear of heaven,” it said.
added that it had convened in order to publicly strengthen “our representatives,
the emissaries of the rabbis,” meaning the United Torah Judaism MKs, which is a
joint list of political representatives from both Agudat Yisrael and Degel
“They work faithfully according to the directives of the
councils of Torah sages against those elements that are trying to harm the world
of holiness in general and Torah study in particular,” the councils
The assembled rabbis concluded their statement by calling on the
heads of government not to make any changes to the way in which those studying
Torah have been treated in the past, “or any of the matters that touch upon the
Jewish character which has been established here in the Land of Israel from time
Agudat Yisrael’s council has not convened for the past 16
years, and many of the former members, mostly the grand rabbis of the various
hassidic courts, have passed away since then.
At least nine new members,
the sons, or family relations, of the late rebbes, were formally added to the
council, which totals 15 members including the grand rabbis of the hassidic
dynasties of Gur, Belz, Vizhnitz, Erlau, Sanz, Boyan, Slonim, Seret-Vizhnitz,
Sadigura, Alexander and Modzitz.
According to Yisrael Cohen, a journalist
for the Haredi website Kikar Hashabbat, the fact that so many of the most senior
rabbis in the country – and of world Jewry – have assembled together illustrates
the importance they attach to the issue of yeshiva students and their ability to
It also demonstrates the unity of the haredi spiritual
leadership on this matter, and their fear that the status of yeshiva status will
be changed, that these two councils were able to come together and speak with
one voice on the matter, Cohen said.