Radical haredi faction promises to ‘ignite the streets' in protest at amendment to enlistment law

Rabbinic leader of Jerusalem Faction says amendment would 'restrict and limit the fulfillment of the Torah, God forbid, through targets and similar things and with various blandishments."

Haredi soldier (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Haredi soldier
A radical haredi group has promised to “ignite the streets” in protest of the proposed amendment to the haredi conscription law, which was approved in its first Knesset reading Tuesday.
The Jerusalem Faction said it is vowing to do everything possible to prevent it from passing into law.
The organization is a breakaway haredi group from the mainstream non-hassidic haredi political movement Degel Hatorah and is fiercely opposed to any efforts aimed at recruiting haredi men into military service.
The amendment to the law for haredi conscription has been devised and advanced by the haredi political parties, principally United Torah Judaism.
It postpones the implementation of obligatory enlistment on full-time yeshiva students until 2020 and gives the defense minister the authority to exempt yeshiva students after that date if he so wishes ,“while bearing in mind” targets established by the government under the 2014 law.
On Monday, the rabbinic leader of the Jerusalem Faction’s Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, 84, published a letter in his group’s mouthpiece the haredi daily HaPeles, decrying the amendment and accused UTJ lawmakers of sanctioning the limitation of Torah study.
“There is now a bad rumor from our mistaken brothers who want to fulfill the awful decree, to restrict and limit the fulfillment of the Torah, God forbid, through targets and similar things and with various blandishments to entice haredi people away from God and his Torah,” wrote Auerbach.
Yishayahu Wein, a senior figure within the Jerusalem Faction and an editor of HaPeles, argued that the amendment postpones the implementation of obligatory military service on haredi yeshiva students and therefore cannot be tolerated.
He added that it was unthinkable to give authority over who may or may not study in yeshiva to the defense minister since such a decision should be in the hands of the students themselves and their rabbis, and that it is possible a minister unsympathetic with the haredi desire to study Torah will be in office when the law comes into effect in 2020.
“Nothing has changed in this law, there are still demands for targets, there are still demands that haredi community can’t meet, and what they are saying is that instead of burning down our house tomorrow, we’ll burn it down in three years,” Wein told The Jerusalem Post.
“The MKs of UTJ protested fiercely in 2014 against the law, and tore their clothes in mourning, but now they are voting for it? [Yesh Atid chairman Yair] Lapid could be the defense minister in 2020 and he’ll decide which yeshiva students to draft into the army. Is this acceptable?” Wein said the senior leadership of the Jerusalem Faction, represented in three municipal councils by the Bnei Torah party, is now strategizing on ways to protest the passage of the amendment.
“Of course we will stage protests, we are planning right now and we will ignite the streets and do everything so that this amendment does not pass its second and third readings in Knesset.”
The Jerusalem Faction has over the course of the last two years staged several violent mass protests against legislation to draft haredi yeshiva students into the army. On several occasions thousands of their loyalists, mainly youths and yeshiva students, have shut down major traffic arteries around the country and fought violently with riot police in protests on the issue of haredi enlistment.
Also opposing the amendment to the enlistment law are students at Tel Aviv University who will go on strike from their studies for one hour on Wednesday afternoon and stage a protest for draft equality during that hour.
Even though the Jerusalem Faction argues that the amendment allows yeshiva students to be drafted, it in effect eviscerates the meaning of obligatory enlistment since the defense minister will be able to exempt haredi yeshiva students from service.
“Students in Israel demand equality in the burden of military service amongst all citizens of the state and demand that the government does not capitulate to political extortion,” said chairwoman of the Tel Aviv University Student Union Inbar Hochberg ahead of the strike.
RABBI SHMUEL AUERBACH speaks at a ‘HaPeles’ conference last year. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)