Degel Council of Torah Sages adds new members

In practice the council convenes only rarely and on matters of extreme importance to the ultra-Orthodox community, such as ultra-Orthodox enlistment to the IDF.

Members of the Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael parties (photo credit: UNITED TORAH JUDAISM)
Members of the Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael parties
(photo credit: UNITED TORAH JUDAISM)
For the first time in eight years, the Council of Torah Sages of Degel Hatorah has added new members of the body, a step which was coordinated and agreed upon by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the two leading rabbis of the Ashkenazi, non-hassidic ultra-Orthodox community.
The Council of Torah Sages is the ultimate authority within this community and the decisions reached by the rabbis who make up its membership are accepted as the policies which the Degel Hatorah political party carries out. 
In practice the council convenes only rarely and on matters of extreme importance to the ultra-Orthodox community such as ultra-Orthodox enlistment to the IDF, with Degel Hatorah MKs consulting individually with Kanievsky and Edelstein on less weighty matters. 
Eight new rabbis, all of them yeshiva deans of prestigious yeshivas, were added to the council on Friday at meeting of the body 
The last time new members were added was in 2012, and the council decided to appoint new rabbis at this time due to the death of several members in recent years. 
The new members of the council are Rabbi Tzvi Drabkin and Rabbi Yitzhak Hacker and Rabbi, deans of the Grodna Yeshiva; Rabbi Shraga Shteinman, dean of the Orchot Hatorah Yeshiva and son of Rabbi Aaron Leib Shteinman, the late head of the council; Rabbi Aviezer Piletz, dean of the Tushia Yeshiva; Rabbi Baruch Visbaker, dean of the Beit Matityahu Yeshiva, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, dean of the Maor Hatalmud Yeshiva; Rabbi Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, dean of the renowned Mir Yeshiva, and Rabbi Aryeh Levi, dean of the Schar and Sachir Yeshiva. 
Following Friday’s meeting, the council published eight decisions and declarations it made in the Sunday edition of the Yated Neeman daily newspaper, Degel’s official news organ. 
Those decisions included a demand from the government to pass a new law providing blanket exemptions from military service to yeshiva students, since the current law regulating this issue was struck down by the High Court of Justice in 2017 as discriminatory and illegal.
The court gave the government 12 months to pass a new law which would increase the number of ultra-Orthodox men enlisting, but due to the collapse of the government at the end of 2018 and the ongoing political instability since then a new law is yet to be passed.
The High Court has issued numerous extensions to its 12 month deadline, but ruled last month that it will not give any further extensions and the current law will expire in three months on February 1, 2021. 
The ultra-Orthodox parties and their rabbinic leadership are therefore anxious to pass a new law before the current government collapses, as seems likely. 
Amongst the other declarations made by the council was a statement of opposition to state recognition of non-Orthodox conversions. 
The High Court is widely expected to rule shortly that converts who convert through the non-Orthodox movements in Israel must be given the right to citizenship under the Law of Return.