Haredi protest in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: JEREMY SHARON)
The head of the Haredi Jerusalem Faction group claimed earlier this week that students had initiated the policy of not reporting to IDF enlistment offices.
Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, head of radical group, said the illegal policy adopted in his yeshivas of instructing students not to obtain their military service exemptions was initiated by the students, who also asked for his blessing not to do so.
Auerbach’s comments have been attacked by opponents of the Jerusalem Faction as demonstrating a lack of leadership and having allowed himself to be dragged into backing a policy that has led to violent disturbances, social unrest and large-scale contempt of the law.
In order to obtain a military service exemption, yeshiva students must complete a short bureaucratic process at IDF enlistment offices. Failure to do so renders a person technically as a deserter and liable to arrest by military police.
The Jerusalem Faction began instructing yeshiva students associated with it, not to perform the necessary bureaucracy to get the exemption in 2012 when the High Court of Justice struck down the previous arrangement allowing all yeshiva students to get an exemption, as unlawful.
Several dozen such students have been arrested in recent years for violating this law, and their arrests have spawned large-scale protests by Jerusalem Faction yeshiva students, frequently paralyzing entire cities by blocking major roads and junctions.
Speaking on Saturday night in Bnei Brak at the anniversary commemoration of the death of Rabbi Eliezer Shach, a former leader of the Haredi world, Auerbach spoke of how this policy came about.
“Stories come to me almost every day, [from] young yeshiva students who don’t want [to report], I cannot force [on them] what I say not to report [to the IDF], I sit on here and I say to you this, can I say don’t report?” related Auerbach in disjointed sentences.
“And they really gave me strength, they say we feel how it is possible, how is it possible? Sometimes the young embarrass their elders, it’s frightening.
“Yeshiva students come, they [ask me to] give support to say not to report – God forbid, how can I say such a thing?... That’s how this thing started, the public came to me one Saturday night and asked me what I say about the decree [the High Court ruling],” Auerbach said.
Critics of the Jerusalem Faction within the Haredi community have always alleged that the extremist stance over reporting to the IDF offices was always intended to distinguish it from the Haredi mainstream.
They believe it was done in order to justify its decision to split off from it and form its own institutions, instead of being a principled decision.