Hassidic rabbis cancel US tour protesting IDF draft

United Torah Judaism MK Eichler feared trip would be misunderstood and ‘stir up anti-Semitism.’

MKs Eichler and Lipman argue in Knesset 370 (photo credit: Sam Sokol)
MKs Eichler and Lipman argue in Knesset 370
(photo credit: Sam Sokol)
The leaders of Israel’s hassidic Jewish community have postponed a planned US tour intended to drum up opposition to government plans to draft yeshiva students into the IDF, an aide to United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The grand rabbis, or admorim, of the largest hassidic dynasties in Israel were all expected to travel to the US on what is being referred to as the Council’s Voyage, including the heads of the Gur, Belz, Vizhnitz, Sanz, Sadigora and Boyan hassidic courts.
In addition to the admorim, three MKs from the Agudat Yisrael political party, the hassidic half of the United Torah Judaism Knesset faction – Eichler, Ya’acov Litzman, Meir Porush – were all reported to have planned on taking part in the trip.
Speaking on the haredi radio station Kol Barama last Wednesday, Eichler said the purpose of the trip was to “enlist the Jewish community of the United States to generate diplomatic pressure on this wicked government.”
Eichler asserted that the “secular regime has declared a total war on haredi Judaism,” and that it prevents housing starts for haredim, demands academic qualifications for entering employment, interferes with haredi education, and is demanding that haredim be drafted into military service.
“If the government continues with these decrees, international human rights will be required to investigate the discrimination and to ask how a prospering state creates 800,000 poor children,” he said.
However, after a meeting in Bnei Brak between several American ultra-Orthodox leaders and MKs Litzman and Eichler, a decision was made to postpone the tour and a massive planned protest rally, due to the concern that “the gathering will not be understood properly, and that it might stir up anti-Semitism.”
“In consultation with the leading ultra-0rthodox rabbis, it was decided to postpone the trip at this stage,” the aide said.
The US Jews, who were not named, were also reported to have met with associates of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and with Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz.
A major anti-draft rally planned for Manhattan for April was canceled following what Agudath Israel of America termed “security concerns” in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. The Satmar Hassidim subsequently held a 20,000-person rally in Manhattan in June against both the draft and the State of Israel.
Several major rabbis of the non-hassidic “Lithuanian” ultra-Orthodox community in Israel were reportedly against the Satmar rally.
Prior to the Satmar rally, Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, one of the leading rabbis of the Lithuanian movement, reportedly stated that the “main thing is to increase Torah learning, the fear of Heaven and prayer” in order to prevent conscription.
Following the announcement of the cancellation of the grand rabbis’ tour, MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), an ordained ultra-Orthodox Rabbi and a proponent of the draft law, told the Post that he hoped that the organizers realized “how absurd such a demonstration would be.”
Moshe Ya’alon (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) Mudar Zahran (Courtesy) Naftali Bennett (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) Tzipi Livni (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) MOURNERS CARRY the body of 22-year-old Odah Hamad at his funeral in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun on December 21. Hamad was killed by the IDF the day before in one of a series of cross-border incidents. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters