Torah Sages instruct students not to sign IDF forms

Rabbi Rubinstein writes letter to deans of haredi yeshivot; students not to sign forms obligating them to enlist in IDF.

Ad against Tal Law (370) (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem /The Jerusalem Post)
Ad against Tal Law (370)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem /The Jerusalem Post)
The secretary-general of the Council of Torah Sages, Rabbi Avraham Rubinstein, sent a letter on Tuesday to the deans of haredi yeshivot directing them to instruct their students not to sign any form that would obligate them to enlist in the IDF.
Following the expiration on August 1 of the “Tal Law” that provided a legal framework for yeshiva students to indefinitely defer military service, ultra- Orthodox men reaching the age of 18 may no longer legally avoid army service.
Until now, a haredi male approaching age 18, like all Jewish Israeli males, would receive a tzav rishon (first draft notice) summoning him to present himself at an IDF enlistment office for processing in the first stage of being drafted.
A haredi male wishing to enter full-time yeshiva study would declare he wanted to take advantage of the Torato omunato (Torah is his profession) option available through the Tal Law framework, allowing him to defer his military service every year.
This option is no longer available, however, so the rabbinical leadership is especially concerned that haredi youth will inadvertently enlist or be unwittingly drafted.
“In accordance with the instructions of our revered rabbis of the Council of Torah Sages in their meeting on Monday, all yeshiva deans must instruct their students not to sign any document that may obligate them regarding enlistment,” Rubinstein wrote in his letter.
At present, haredi men are apparently not proceeding to the examination and sorting stage of the enlistment process despite the expiration of the Tal Law. Currently, the 1986 Defense Service Law is operative and requires the enlistment of all 18 year old Jewish males.
However, the IDF is not equipped for the influx of the thousands of full-time haredi yeshiva students who are now obligated to enlist.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has instructed the army to draw up, by the beginning of September, plans to increase the numbers of haredim being drafted into the army and expand the tracks appropriate to the haredi lifestyle to “reflect the High Court ruling, the needs of the IDF and its values, and increase the share of the military burden.”
Separately, the High Court of Justice said it would consider next month the merits of an appeal seeking to halt transfers of government funds to yeshivot, which until now have operated within the Tal Law framework.
The Hiddush religious freedom lobbying organization submitted a petition to the High Court demanding an injunction to halt the transfers, claiming they are no longer legal following the expiration of the Tal Law. According to Hiddush these funds amount to NIS 30 million every month and more than NIS 400 million per year.
Hiddush deputy director Shahar Ilan said he was pleased that the High Court would be dealing with the issue in short order, but added that he expected the government to immediately stop the transfers “since they are in contravention of the law.” Ilan also leveled criticism at the Council of Torah Sages for its statement Monday night that it was “frightened and alarmed” over the current “wave of incitement” it said the haredi community is facing over the issue of IDF enlistment.
“Leaders should lead, not be afraid,” Ilan said, adding that the leadership of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who died last month, had been catastrophic for the haredi community.
“He said no to everything. This is not leadership but things won’t change until the senior rabbinical leadership changes its stance.”