The opening of specially designed induction centers for haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men who receive induction orders from the IDF has been put on hold, it emerged on Sunday, following pressure and threats by the haredi leadership.
The new law for haredi conscription, which the Knesset passed two weeks ago, allows any full-time yeshiva student who was over the age of 22 on the day the law was passed to obtain an immediate exemption from military service. It allows anyone 18-and-over to defer their service until aged 26, after which they may gain a full exemption, and requires anyone under 18 to complete full military service, though they may postpone their enlistment until the age of 21.
The haredi daily newspaper Yated Ne’eman published a report on Friday saying that haredi youth and yeshiva students who receive induction notices, or who go to obtain their deferrals or exemptions, would be required to attend the new haredi induction centers, where they would receive information about the IDF and the benefits of enlistment.
The haredi leadership was extremely concerned that some of the yeshiva students would be tempted to enlist after being exposed to the information provided at the new centers.
The article in Yated Ne’eman said that if yeshiva students were required to attend the induction centers the haredi rabbinic leadership would instruct students to refrain from reporting for the preliminary enlistment process, as they have done until now.
Such a step would create serious upheaval and social unrest since anyone who does not present themselves to the IDF enlistment offices when called is considered to be a deserter, and is liable to arrest by the military police.
In the year-and-a-half since the “Tal Law,” arranging haredi military service deferrals, expired in July 2012, the rabbinic leadership has instructed yeshiva students to report to the enlistment offices for preliminary processing – though none of them were drafted during this period.
Yeshiva students associated with a hardline minority haredi faction have however refused to report, some of whom have subsequently been arrested.
Were the mainstream leadership to instruct the majority of yeshiva students not to report, the army would be faced with the task of arresting several thousand haredi youths and yeshiva students.
Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked told haredi website B’Hadrei Haredim on Sunday morning that she had held discussions with Brig.-Gen. Gadi Agmon, of the IDF Manpower Directorate, and the senior haredi leadership, and that an agreement had been reached not to operate the haredi induction centers at this time.
She said that there would be no change in the enlistment processing procedures.
“Anyone who will receive an exemption or who is able to receive a deferral will go to the [standard] enlistment offices and will receive the deferral immediately without needing to go through any procedure or to watch any presentations of videos,” Shaked said in reference to the informational presentations that haredi youth were to be shown at the new centers.
She said that specific areas in the regular enlistment offices would be set aside for haredi men reporting to receive their deferral or exemption.
The mainstream haredi rabbinic leadership has already threatened to instruct yeshiva students not to report for preliminary processing.
In February, the three rabbinical councils of the mainstream haredi political movements banned yeshiva students from enlisting and said that if legally obligatory service were mandated in the new legislation, which it was, they would reconvene shortly thereafter to consider banning yeshiva students from reporting to enlistment offices.
Because the haredi induction centers will not be operated, haredi sources told The Jerusalem Post that the councils will not convene on the issue until after Passover, when conscription orders for haredi youth under 18 years of age are scheduled to be sent out.
It is believed that the majority opinion among the senior haredi leadership is that to ban yeshiva students from reporting to the IDF enlistment offices at this stage is unnecessary, since under the terms of the new law no one will be legally obligated to enlist until 2017.
In light of this situation, much of the rabbinical and political leadership is of the opinion that it is not worthwhile taking the drastic step of banning haredi youth from reporting for preliminary processing.
Rabbi Yisrael Hager, grand rabbi of the Viznitz Hassidim, is an exception within the mainstream rabbinic leadership. He believes that the army and government will give in to haredi demands if the senior rabbis forbid students to report for duty.
It is thought that the grand rabbis of Gur and Slonim are of a similar opinion. Gur and Viznitz are the first and second largest hassidic dynasties in Israel, and number in the thousands of families.
Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, a leading non-hassidic haredi rabbi, heads a hard-line faction that has instructed yeshiva students not to report for preliminary processing since the Tal Law expired.
A yeshiva student associated with his Bnei Torah political movement was arrested on Purim last week for failing to report and is currently being held in the IDF’s Prison 6 close to Atlit.
Several thousand haredi men and youth protested the incarceration of this yeshiva student Wednesday night. He is the most recent of several such men who have been arrested and imprisoned in Prison 6 for not reporting for service.