Haredi Councils of Torah Sages may convene on IDF conscription law

The three councils of Shas, Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael held historic meeting in February for the first time ever and told yeshiva students not to enlist.

April 24, 2014 22:57
2 minute read.
HAREDI DEMONSTRATORS protest in Jerusalem against performing national service.

Haredim protest enlistment 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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The haredi leadership is considering whether to convene the three Councils of Torah Sages of the mainstream political movements to deliberate on its practical response to the law for haredi conscription passed in March.

The three councils of Shas, Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael held an historic joint meeting back in February for the first time ever and told yeshiva students not to enlist and threatened to instruct them not to report to the IDF for preliminary processing, as they have done, in the majority, until now.

The councils said at the time they would make a final decision on the matter if the conscription law was passed, as it has been.

Haredi men now over the age of 22 are to be given complete exemptions under the terms of the new legislation, while those between 18 and 22 will be entitled to defer their service every year for one year until the age of 26, when they will be able to obtain final and total exemptions.

However, the IDF had initially planned to send haredi men from these two age groups to special haredi induction centers where they would hear about the benefits and opportunities of enlistment before deciding whether to take their exemption.

The haredi leadership threatened shortly before Passover to immediately order all haredi men of military age not to report to the IDF under any circumstances in response to these reports, and the army eventually backed down and agreed not to go ahead with efforts to convince men to enlist.

The possibility that the haredi rabbinic councils would order men from their communities not to report for preliminary processing is a serious threat to law and order, since anyone who fails to do so is defined as a deserter and liable to arrest by the Military Police.

If thousands of men decided not to report to the IDF when required to do so, it would be difficult to imprison all of them.

A haredi source told The Jerusalem Post, however, that he did not believe the councils would convene soon, and that this would mean that no such instructions would be issued.

Several of the leading haredi rabbis, particularly from the hassidic community, are now more inclined to instruct their young men not to report due to their anger at the terms of the new law.

The grand rabbis of the two biggest hassidic groups, Gur and Viznitz, are both of this opinion, as is the grand rabbi of Slonim, and possibly several others.

According to the source, the army’s promise not to run the special haredi induction centers will be sufficient for now to prevent the councils from convening and banning men from reporting for preliminary processing.

Additionally, despite the rhetoric the haredi leadership, particularly at the political level, is thought not to be unduly concerned by the new law, as the full terms of the legislation will only take effect in 2017 and are not unduly severe either.

Observers of the haredi community have observed that the mainstream rabbinic leaders, particularly Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman who is the leader of the non-hassidic haredi community, are disinclined to take the extremely severe step of banning men from presenting themselves at this stage.

Shteinman’s position is also based on his rivalry with Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, a contender for the community’s leadership, who instructed his followers not to present themselves more than 18 months ago.

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