Video credit: Yisrael Cohen/Kikar HaShabbat
A leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi and several hundred haredi men took part in a
demonstration Wednesday outside the IDF’s Prison 6, near Atlit, south of
They were protesting the arrest and detention of a yeshiva student
who refused to present himself to the IDF enlistment office.
haredi man of 19 from Kiryat Malachi, was imprisoned for 14 days starting Sunday
night. He had been arrested by the IDF military police and underwent trial
before an IDF judge.
Haredi demonstrators began arriving outside the
prison throughout Wednesday morning and were joined later by Rabbi Shmuel
Auerbach, 86, one of the most senior and hard-line haredi leaders in the
Moshe’s arrest came against a background of mounting tensions
surrounding government legislation aimed at drafting ultra-Orthodox men for
either military duty or an alternative form of national service. Divisions have
been opening up between members of the governing coalition as to how best to
achieve a significant increase in numbers.
Several Knesset members, along
with experts on haredi society, have warned that using the threat of
imprisonment would be counter-productive.
However, proponents of service
equality have said that such measures would be required in order to prevent any
High Court challenge to the law.
The haredi demonstrators at Prison 6
protested peacefully while chanting such slogans as “God separated us from the
non-Jews and gave us the Torah of truth” and “In every generation they rose up
to destroy us but God saved us from them.”
According to the haredi
newspaper Hapeles, which first reported the arrest, Moshe, who studies at a
yeshiva in Petah Tikva, was initially called up for IDF service in 2012, when
the Tal Law was still in effect. At that point a person studying fulltime in a
yeshiva could postpone his service for a year – on an indefinite basis – until
the age of military service exemption.
He formally postponed his service
before the law expired in August of that year, but subsequently failed to
present himself at the enlistment office, as he was legally obligated to do,
when called a second time at the end of 2012.
He is a follower of
Auerbach, who has taken an even harsher stance on the issue of military service
than has the mainstream haredi leadership.
Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman,
leader of the mainstream non-hassidic haredi community, has instructed yeshiva
deans to tell their students to present themselves at the recruiting office when
called up, but to avoid signing any documents.
Yeshiva students who have
done this have received enlistment orders, but the Defense Ministry has
repeatedly cancelled them as the enlistment date draws near.
has, however, instructed yeshiva deans and students who are close to him not to
present themselves at the recruiting office at all.
Someone failing to do
so is deemed a draft evader and subject to arrest.
outside Prison 6 held up a sign saying “Presenting oneself [to the enlistment
office] is a conspiracy to dismantle the holy yeshivot.”
It would seem
that there are other yeshiva students who have refused to present themselves to
the recruiting offices, but how many is unclear.
Auerbach heads what is
known as the Jerusalem Faction, a small but significant grouping of non-hassidic
haredim who are loyal to him and not to Shteinman.
In October, for the
first time ever, the group’s political party, Bnei Torah, contested municipal
elections in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and Modi’in Illit. In a political coup for the
ultra-Orthodox world, it received five council seats at the expense of the
traditional Degel Hatorah Party, guided by Shteinman.
religious-rights lobbying group that has strongly advocated for haredi
enlistment, warned on Wednesday that the arrests and subsequent protests would
become commonplace if the government insists on stipulating criminal sanctions
for yeshiva students refusing to serve.
“The protest today proves again
that anyone who decides to imprison thousands of haredim ensures that they will
wage an uncompromising war [against such a policy], and the few who do currently
enlist will not be able to continue to serve in the army,” said Uri Regev,
Hiddush’s executive director and a Reform rabbi.
“If there is an attempt
to use imprisonment it will play into the hands of the haredi extremists who are
completely opposed to IDF service,” Regev said. “The way to bring about haredi
enlistment is through comprehensive economic sanctions which will make staying
in yeshiva financially impossible for the majority and will bring a halt to the
public funding of draft evaders.