French-born Chabad rabbi ‘stuck’ in Israel by IDF for not enlisting

He was detained when he asked to leave the country at the end of a vacation in August with his wife and daughter. The case was publicized by Kol Barama radio journalist Mendi Rizel.

A young Haredi man outside the IDF enlistment office in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A young Haredi man outside the IDF enlistment office in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Menachem Mendel Attel, a 25-year-old French citizen who serves as a rabbi and Chabad emissary in Grenoble, France, has been barred from leaving Israel for the past three months after being accused of “defection” from the IDF.

He was detained when he asked to leave the country at the end of a vacation in August with his wife and daughter. The case was publicized by Kol Barama radio journalist Mendi Rizel.

“Left with no choice, the woman and their toddler flew back to their home and community in France, when the woman was in an advanced stage of her high-risk pregnancy,” Rizel reported.

According to Rizel, “all his requests to return to his family and receive an exemption were not answered.”

About a week ago, according to Rizel, his wife gave birth to a daughter without her husband by her side.

 Thousands of Shluchim pose for a “class picture” outside Chabad World Headquarters (credit: Shalom Burkis - Kinus.com) Thousands of Shluchim pose for a “class picture” outside Chabad World Headquarters (credit: Shalom Burkis - Kinus.com)

French Jews and French olim 

Shas MK Yossi Taieb made aliyah from France a number of years ago and has said that he sees himself as the “representative of French olim in the Knesset.”

The IDF, in response to the report, explained: “Inductees with Israeli citizenship who left the country before the age of 16 and who did not exceed a period of up to 120 days a year are eligible to be defined as the son of immigrants and therefore exempt from conscription.”

According to the IDF, “children of immigrants are given the option to stay in Israel for up to four years of studies for the benefit of higher studies in Israel at a recognized academic institution,” yet “the person designated for the security service in question does not meet the above criteria and is therefore required to be drafted.”

They explained that Attel “is not defined as an evader, but as someone whose status is not regulated due to the fact that he did not cooperate with the procedures.”

A military official told Kol Barama that they recommend Attel to visit the recruiting office “as soon as possible” to regularize his status with the required certificates if they exist.

On Thursday, Taieb sent a letter to Defense Minister Benny Gantz to intervene on behalf of Attel.

“It goes without saying that these [Chabad] emissaries look after the national interest of Israel in the Diaspora and strengthen the connection of Diaspora Jews to the State of Israel. We should not underestimate them.”

Attel became a Chabad emissary and traveled around the world, including to Israel in 2018 for studies in yeshiva. “In 2019 he returned to France, the country of his birth and the place of residence of his parents,” Taieb said. Attel then married and established a family there.

According to Taieb, Attel’s mother arrived at the Israeli Embassy in France in 2015 after being approached by an official, stating that she “needs to issue Israeli passports for her children.” Attel was in Israel from 2015 to 2016, studying in yeshiva, which was why he wasn’t at the embassy on that day.

Attel became a Chabad emissary and traveled around the world, including to Israel in 2018 for studies in yeshiva. In 2019 he returned to France, the country of his birth and the place of residence of his parents, Taieb said. Attel then married and established a family there.

According to Taieb, Attel was married when he arrived in Israel in August 2022 when his wife was pregnant with their daughter.

He is "considered a soldier"

According to Taieb, it was then that he wasn’t allowed to leave, and told that he is required to enlist as he is “considered a soldier.”

Taieb added that “the situation harms the fulfillment of his duty as a Chabad emissary and, as a result, harms, indirectly, the Jewish community in the city where he lives.”

He added that there is a small phenomenon of Diaspora Jews, not only from France, that were born outside of Israel but are considered Israeli because of their parents.

“Israelis that leave Israel aren’t always aware of the fact that their children – who may have not even been born yet, will be considered Israelis,” Taieb said.

He said “the army is not really to blame, it is simply necessary to legally settle the matter to prevent this phenomenon.”