Haredi leaders decry Peri committee

'Yeshiva students will go to jail with their heads held high,' said a prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbi.

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May 31, 2013 01:36
3 minute read.
Haredi demonstration against IDF enlistment legislation in Jerusalem, May 16, 2013

Haredi demonstration against IDF enlistment legislation 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Haredi leaders, rabbis and media went on the offensive on Thursday against the bill for ultra-Orthodox enlistment that the Peri Committee approved on Wednesday.

They issued a series of denunciations against the measure, accompanied by dire prophecies about what would happen if the legislation passed.

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Leading haredi daily Yated Ne’eman, the mouthpiece of the Degel Hatorah faction of the non-hassidic haredi community, emblazoned the words “A Government of Evil: Torah Students to Jail” across its front page Thursday morning.

Degel Hatorah is one of two parties that make up United Torah Judaism.

“There is shock and disgust in the Jewish world in light of the shameful decisions of the [Peri] Committee and the wild incitement against Torah students,” the paper declared.

And Hamodia, the newspaper of record for the hassidic Agudat Yisrael party, declared in its front-page headline that “haredi Judaism in Israel and around the world will stand with strength and pride against the decision to draft yeshiva students by force and to throw them into prison for the ‘crime’ of learning Torah.” Speaking with The Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Shlomo Brilland, director of the Association of Yeshivot, described the bill as “violent” and “wild,” and said it was being proposed in the knowledge that it would fail.

“Will it cause anyone to enlist? Absolutely not,” he said on Thursday. “Not one yeshiva student will enlist as a result of it, and instead they’ll go to jail with their heads held high.” On the contrary, he said, “it will cause the haredi world to close in and will naturally create more extremism.”

In the short term, the leading haredi rabbis have so far called only for increased Torah study as a reaction to the proposed legislation, he continued, adding that at this stage they were not in favor of protests and demonstrations.

The mass haredi protest that took place earlier this month was organized by the radical Eda Haredit communal organization, along with the hard-line Jerusalem Faction, and not by the mainstream haredi leadership.

In an interview with haredi website Kikar Hashabbat, Haim Valder, a well known haredi author and educator, said that in light of what he described as a general persecution of haredim, the tone of the public debate and the haredi reaction to the Peri Committee bill would get sharper.

He added, however, that he did not believe the law would be implemented.

“I don’t think that anything will come out of the Peri Committee recommendations, and no yeshiva students will be drafted or sent to prison for not enlisting,” Walder said.

Following the publication of the committee recommendations, all seven United Torah Judaism MKs fiercely condemned the proposals.

MK Uri Maklev said that the only thing that had guaranteed Jewish survival throughout the ages was Torah study.

“The Romans and the Tsars and the Cossacks of our generation are unfortunately hypocritical and pretend ‘brothers,’ and they are the cause and partner to the persecution of the Torah,” Maklev said.

MK Ya’acov Asher accused Yesh Atid leader and Finance Minister Yair Lapid of seeking to cover up his “economic failures” by making headlines out of taunting and baiting haredim.

“They don’t care about enlistment, they prefer arrests to enlistment, they prefer protests to enlistment, because this helps them in light of their economic and budgetary failures,” claimed Asher.

And MK Menahem Eliezer Mozes declared that “the haredi world is not concerned by one law or another.

The Torah world will continue to exist, and yeshiva students will continue to study.” On Tuesday, the day before the Peri Committee concluded its work, top haredi spiritual leader Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman called on the haredi world to increase its Torah studies as the only way to avert the “decrees” against it.

“We don’t know why this storm has arisen, and we don’t have a prophet to tell us what to correct in order to nullify these harsh decrees, so we will examine our ways,” wrote Shteinman.

“We must increase and strengthen our Torah studies, continuously without interference... and strengthen our prayer and our supplication before the Master of all, to nullify the decrees hanging over us.”


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