Top haredi rabbi: No rockets will fall in Bnei Brak

Rabbi Haim Kanievsky says Torah study protects ultra-Orthodox city; religious-freedom lobbying group denounces comments.

Haredim in Mea Shearim 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Haredim in Mea Shearim 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, one of the most senior haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis in the country, has issued a public statement declaring that no rockets will fall on Bnei Brak and that residents of the city should not be afraid.
The notice, published in the haredi daily Yated Neeman on Monday, cited the declarations of Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (known as the Hazon Ish), who said in the early days of the state that there would never be any explosions in his city of Bnei Brak.
“This will surely be fulfilled, and there is no reason for fear,” Kanievsky wrote.
The rabbi has advised those who have asked him whether to leave the south, to do so and go to Bnei Brak.
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Last week, another senior haredi figure, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein – dean of the renowned Ponevezh Yeshiva – told students that the merit of Torah study had protected people during the first Gulf War when Iraq fired Scud missiles at the Center of the country, and that Bnei Brak had not been hit at all.
“No damage can be done in a place where Torah is studied,” Edelstein said. He told students to redouble their Torah-study efforts, as it was “the only thing that saves and protects.”
However, Hiddush, a religious- freedom lobby group, issued a statement denouncing the pronouncements coming from the haredi leadership.
“Bnei Brak and the other haredi cities have served for decades as cities of refuge for tens of thousands of rabbis and yeshiva students who evade military service and turn the Torah into ‘a shovel to dig with,’” said Hiddush director Rabbi Uri Regev, quoting a Talmudic instruction not to take advantage of the Torah for personal benefit.
“Operation Pillar of Defense illustrates this perfectly,” he continued.
“In the past, the haredi community had [the] little bit of tact to lower its profile during times of war, and it’s a shame this wisdom has been forgotten. It can only be hoped that after the operation in Gaza, the public discussion on mandatory military service will be renewed.”