Haredi leaders concerned over IDF medical exams

Public notice calls on yeshiva students not to respond to induction letters over IDF medical exams.

Haredi and IDF soldier Tal law Jerusalem 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Haredi and IDF soldier Tal law Jerusalem 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
The rabbinical leadership of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox community instructed young haredi men to continue to present themselves at IDF recruiting offices if and when they receive enlistment orders, despite complaints about the medical exams they undergo at the offices.
In a public notice published on the front page of the Yated Neeman haredi daily newspaper on Thursday, the Council of Torah Sages, a body comprised of the most senior haredi rabbis in the country, instructed yeshiva students who have received enlistment orders to present themselves to the IDF but not to sign any documents and to simply declare themselves to be yeshiva students.
This is in accordance with an earlier directive issued by the council back in August.
On Tuesday, senior haredi MKs Moshe Gafni and Ya’acov Litzman held a meeting with officials in the Defense Ministry to address the complaints and concerns of several yeshiva students and the haredi leadership with regards to the standard medical exams all recruits undergo in the initial enlistment process.
Some yeshiva students have reported that they were not dealt with “in accordance with their haredi lifestyle” at the recruitment office, and yeshiva deans have voiced concern about the medical exams that all recruits are given, particularly that they not be conducted on yeshiva students by women.
The Council of Torah Sages notice in Yated Neeman on Thursday said that “following the serious problems at IDF recruitment offices which have been reported, the issue is being examined and dealt with in full severity by representatives of United Torah Judaism.”
As such, there is no change in the instructions of the Council and yeshiva students should continue to present themselves to the IDF when requested but not sign any documents, the notice continued.
During their meeting with Defense Ministry officials, Gafni and Litzman requested that specific procedures be drawn up for the handling of haredi youth in IDF recruitment offices in accordance with their haredi lifestyle.
According to UTJ officials, the Defense Ministry officials promised to look into the reports and to draw up guidelines for dealing with yeshiva students, saying that they would make every effort to avoid such problems.
Because of the concerns over the medical exams, warning notices were posted on Wednesday at several yeshivas associated with leading haredi figure Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach instructing yeshiva students not to present themselves at recruitment offices if so requested.
Such notices appeared at Maalot Hatorah Yeshiva, headed by Auerbach, as well as the Ponvezeh yeshiva, a leading haredi institution, and other yeshivot as well.
Auerbach has, however, been sidelined in the ranks of the haredi spiritual leadership since losing a leadership struggle with Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman earlier this year.
The Council of Torah Sages, headed by Shteinman, issued its notice in Thursday’s Yated Neeman in response to the warnings placed in the yeshivas connected to Auerbach.
Since the expiration of the Tal Law in August that allowed full-time yeshiva students to indefinitely defer military service, hundreds of recruitment notices have been sent out by the IDF to haredi youth born in 1994 and 1995 requesting that they present themselves at a recruiting office for the preliminary stages of the enlistment process.
The Defense Ministry has however said that actual enlistment will only begin in the summer of 2013.
Draft reform advocates have accused the Ministry of dragging its feet on haredi enlistment so that, after the coming elections, the Knesset can reconvene and pass new legislation to exempt the majority of yeshiva students.
According to another report in Yated Neeman on Thursday, Gafni and Litzman declared that they would “continue to work [to ensure] that no yeshiva student claiming the status of ‘Torah is his employment’ will be drafted and [that he will be able] to continue studying Torah — his obligation and his mission.”
According to the Defense Ministry, 800 haredi boys born in 1995 and 1996 have presented themselves at IDF recruitment offices and 200 have received enlistment orders for July 2013.