“We will be a partner which will fight for Torah study in Israel, and we will fight against laws that coerce service. Whoever is learning Torah should continue to learn Torah, full stop. This is my stance from the beginning. Although it’s not always easy to explain this to our secular brothers, my way is to explain that the Jewish people have existed for thousands of years in exile because of Torah, and in the State of Israel we need to strengthen this.”
Don’t Draft Haredim, HaBayit HaYehudi Leader Naftali Bennett Says
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
So much for equality under law.
HaBayit HaYehudi leader Naftali Bennett told the haredi radio station Radio Kol Hai yesterday that he is opposed to drafting haredi yeshiva and kollel students or forcing them to do some form of national service, the Jerusalem Post reported. HaBayit HaYehudi, Bennett declared, would “fight against legislation which would coercively draft” yeshiva students.
“We will be a partner which will fight for Torah study in Israel, and we will fight against laws that coerce service. Whoever is learning Torah should continue to learn Torah, full stop. This is my stance from the beginning. Although it’s not always easy to explain this to our secular brothers, my way is to explain that the Jewish people have existed for thousands of years in exile because of Torah, and in the State of Israel we need to strengthen this,” Bennett said.
Last February, Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down a law that exempted haredi yeshiva students from Israel’s mandatory military service or its national civil service option, but the coalition government of Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has been slow to enforce the ruling, dagging its feet many observers believe, to please his haredi coalition partners.
Bennett’s remarks were condemned by politicians and activists from across the Israeli political spectrum, many of whom have fought for years and even decades to try make haredim share in the burden of defending Israel’s sometimes precarious borders.
As it stood until the High Court struck down the exemption law, all haredi yeshiva students of initial draft age and above were exempt from military or national civil service as long as they were full time students. Additionally, these yeshiva students – who number in the tens of thousands and who often spend decades of their adult lives in yeshiva study – receive government stipends and a basket of welfare benefits tailored to families with many children. Most haredi men do not work and rely on these stipends and welfare benefits, along with any money their wives may be able to earn between pregnancies.
All of these benefits are paid for by taxpayers – the vast majority of whom serve in military or military reserves. This, along with the haredi failure to share the defense burden, has created intense resentment for haredim.
During his Radio Kol Hai interview, Bennett also touched on another haredi issue that deeply angers many Israelis – the state’s haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate and its crushing bureaucracy which all Israeli Jews, Orthodox or not, religious or completely secular, are by law governed by.
Israel’s secular majority must deal with the state Rabbinate’s haredi bureaucracy for all lifecycle matters from birth to marriage, divorce, and eventually burial. And they are often victimized by it.
Stories are legion of women waiting several years or more to be granted a rabbinic divorce called a get. Jews have come to Israel from all parts of the world, from established Jewish communities where they were known as Jews and where their parents and grandparents were known as Jews, only to have Israel’s state haredi rabbis block them from being married due to “questions” about their Jewish status the rabbis can take years to investigate.
A grandchild of a Holocaust survivor can be banned from marriage because she cannot produce her mother’s mother’s ketuba, marriage contract to “prove” that – even though her family has been known as Jews for generations in Omaha, Nebraska or Dallas, Texas – she really is a Jew. The ketuba was burned by the Nazis when they murdered most of your grandmother’s family? Sorry, the Rabbinate doesn’t do history.
A soldier dies while saving his comrades from enemy fire but he can’t be buried because the rabbis aren’t sure his mother – who immigrated from the Former Soviet Union – is really Jewish.
There are hundreds of stories like this in this tiny country.
But rather than fee Israeli Jews from this, Bennett says he wants to make the existing system more user friendly for Israel’s secular majority and develop better propaganda to make the Rabbinate experience more palatable.
“[G]reater efforts must be made to embrace the secular public and explain” Jewish laws and values to them, Bennett reportedly said.
However, Bennett did criticize the haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate, calling it a “machine for dolling out jobs.”
Because of the Rabbinate’s unfriendly bureaucracy, Bennett continued, it is “no surprise that young couples are going to Cyprus to get married” in civil ceremonies there.
Israel does not have civil marriage, forcing Jewish atheists, agnostics and thousands of other secular Israelis to marry and, if necessary, divorce, using a religious system they do not believe in and often dislike.
In cases where there is a question about the Jewishness of a bride or groom, or where one of them is openly non-Jewish, Israelis have no way to marry in Israel. Many of those couples along with hundreds more who are simply fed up with the Rabbinate and Orthodox Judaism, travel to Cyprys or other foreign countries to marry.
Israel recognizes foreign marriages of its citizens, even if those marriages would not have been permitted to take place in Israel itself.