Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Shalom Cohen instructs yeshiva students not to enlist in army

Cohen’s letter comes against a background of increasing activity against IDF enlistment by extremists in the haredi community.

Rabbi Shalom Cohen. (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Rabbi Shalom Cohen.
(photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Shalom Cohen signed a letter earlier this month strongly warning ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students against joining the army and denouncing haredi figures who promote IDF enlistment by saying they would have no place in the world to come.
Cohen’s letter comes against a background of increasing activity against IDF enlistment by extremists in the haredi community, mostly not associated with the Sephardi community that Shas and Cohen represent.
Published by Kol Hai Radio on Wednesday night, Cohen’s letter, signed on July 20, attributed the security of the Jewish people to the merit earned by those who study Torah and said that no yeshiva student, married or single, should enlist.
“God forbid, that an unmarried yeshiva student at any level of learning, or a married student, even if he has problems with his income, should leave the holy guard post [yeshiva], and should not be enticed by any ‘haredi’ or non-haredi elements promising a future with money and honor if he joins some [IDF] course,” Cohen said.
And the rabbi spoke in even harsher terms about people in the haredi community who are actively promoting IDF enlistment.
“All those who entice and incite cause the masses to sin,” he said in reference to such people, and quoted Maimonides, the famous medieval rabbinic authority, who ruled that someone who causes others to sin loses their place in the afterlife.
A Shas official played down the importance of Cohen’s letter, saying that this was a natural position for Cohen as a conservative-minded rabbi who has for most of his life served as the head of the flagship Sephardi haredi Porat Yosef Yeshiva, and added that this was not a widely held position with the haredi Sephardi community.
In light of the ongoing campaign by extremists from the Ashkenazi haredi community against IDF enlistment, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s subcommittee on the IDF’s human resources convened Thursday morning to evaluate the action being taken against this phenomenon.
The campaign takes the form of posters, pamphlets and booklets bearing cartoons and other images that strongly incite against haredi officials involved in promoting IDF service, routinely depicting such people as pigs and malign elements attempting to corrupt haredi youth.
Earlier this month, a booklet containing the names, photos and contact details of senior figures in the haredi community who promote enlistment was published by extremists as part of their efforts to harass and delegitimize haredi enlistment and those who are advancing it.
The booklet claimed that “hundreds of haredi recruiters lie in wait for the youth,” and are described as “professional missionaries with a haredi appearance” who “sold their souls to Satan for a little bit of money.”
Several police investigations into this and similar incidents have been opened, although no one has yet been charged. A police representative said during the Knesset’s hearing that the investigation was ongoing and that he would shortly be requesting an update in order to issue indictments to those responsible.