‘Camp Sucker’ wagon stops in Efrat

Haredi leaders say there’s no room for negotiations whatsoever.

Protest against Tal Law 390 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Protest against Tal Law 390
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The “Camp Sucker” movement lobbying against ultra- Orthodox exemption from national service stopped off in Efrat on Thursday evening, joined by MK David Rotem, prominent national-religious leader Rabbi Yuval Cherlow and other figures from the national religious and settler movements.
Camp Sucker leaders Boaz Nul and Idan Miller said they were protesting in Efrat to demonstrate that the their fight was not one between religious and secular communities or a political battle between Left and Right, but one of values.
“This is a struggle for the values and ethical character of Israeli society,” said Miller. “It is a struggle for the need to restore the values of service and sacrifice as foundational principles for the state, which form the glue that connects the different parts of Israeli society.”
Cherlow, dean of the Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva, agreed that the demand for all sectors of society to perform national service was an ethical issue.
“When the tribes of Reuven and Gad asked Moses if they could settle on the eastern side of the Jordan, he asked them, ‘Shall your brothers go to war and you will sit here?’” Cherlow said, in reference to the biblical account of the Israelite preparations to conquer the Land of Israel.
“From an ethical and religious perspective this is unacceptable,” he continued.
Cherlow stated that he does not, however, support instituting a law that would coercively draft the ultra-Orthodox into national service, and said that “ethical pressure” should be employed to persuade the haredi community to take part in national service programs.
Tools such as preferential treatment for employment in the state sector and financial incentives for those who serve should also be used, he said.
The rabbi added that despite the importance of the commandment to study Torah, it does not override the obligations of performing other Torah commandments, including the obligation to go to war to defend the nation.
“The commandment of Torah study is more important than building a succa, but that doesn’t mean you’re not obligated to build a succa, or to acquire the four species, or listen to the shofar on Rosh Hashana,” Cherlow argued.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post, Rotem questioned the wording of the new stage of the Camp Sucker campaign, “Bibi, you promised, now fulfill.”
“So what if Bibi promised,” Rotem said acerbically. “He’s promised many things. And anyway, he’s not the prime minister, the attorney-general is.”
Rotem denied that any deal has been made to implement what have become known as the Elkin parameters, after coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, who is in favor of establishing a minimum number of haredi recruits every year, instead of mandating service for all.
“We are still at war on this issue, and we are still insisting on service for all,” Rotem said, outlining the Yisrael Beytenu proposals that the army should take its pick of whoever it wants for military service and everyone else be drafted into national service programs.
Speaking to the small crowd assembled in the settlement, head of the Efrat regional council Oded Ravivi said that his call for service for all was aimed not only at the ultra- Orthodox community but also at those in Gush Dan who did not serve either.
“Head of the IDF Manpower Directorate Orna Barbivai has said that the rate of enlistment from Judea and Samaria is twice that of Gush Dan,” Ravivi explained.
“It’s important that we here in Efrat when talking of the need for service for all also direct our call at those living in the center of the country as well.”
Despite public and political pressure, the haredi leadership has in recent days continued to voice extreme opposition to a mandatory draft for fulltime yeshiva students.
On Wednesday night, Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’akov Litzman of United Torah Judaism warned that his party would leave the coalition if the yeshiva students were not able to remain in study.
“If someone who wants to learn Torah is not allowed to learn Torah we will not be able to continue in the coalition,” Litzman said in an interview with haredi radio station Radio Kol Hai.
And Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the spiritual leader of the haredi, non-hassidic community, told MKs Uri Maklev and Moshe Gafni of the Degel HaTorah political faction (part of UTJ) this week that there is no debate to be had about drafting yeshiva students.
“There is no room here for discussion, nothing at all on which to compromise, and nothing for which [we need to] sit down with them,” Shteinman told the MKs according to a report from the Degel Hatorah mouthpiece Yated Ne’eman on Wednesday.
The rabbi said that the years between 20 and 30 are precisely those in which a yeshiva student needs to be studying Torah.
“We cannot give up on any yeshiva student who wants to study, it’s not open to discussion and it’s not a topic for negotiation, we’re talking about actual life and death here,” he continued.
Shteinman added that in addition to this point of principle, the army itself was very problematic for the lifestyle of an ultra-Orthodox man, where he is confronted with the possibility of severely transgressing Torah commandments.
Director of the religious-freedom lobbying group Uri Regev said that Shteinman’s comments served to highlight the leadership crisis within the haredi community.