Israel Defense Forces officials have assured senior Lithuanian rabbis that ultra-Orthodox men reporting to the draft office will be interviewed and examined exclusively by men.
The promise was made after the rabbis ordered yeshiva students not to report to the draft office after receiving the first notice from the army following complaints of "humiliating physical checkups."
Knesset Members Yakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism)
met last week with Defense Ministry representatives in a bid to guarantee that yeshiva students will continue reporting to the draft office.
The two MKs updated Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman and Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, leaders of the Orthodox Lithuanian public, on the understandings reached between the parties. According to the proposed settlement, the draft process will be adjusted to yeshiva students' religious needs and they will be checked by men only.
Following the apparent agreement, several yeshiva heads convened at the home of Rabbi Auerbach to discuss the instruction given to the students not to report to the draft office. The meeting ended without any results, as the final settlement between the IDF and haredi representatives had yet to be presented to them.
Until the agreement is finalized, the rabbis are increasing their pressure on the army and are even threatening to organize a mass protest rally.
The IDF said in response that during the meeting held between army representatives and UJA lawmakers, the parties agreed on issues related to the draft process of the haredi population.
"The proposed adjustments include conducting personal interviews by men only and editing the questions in order to match the haredi society's lifestyle," the army said in a statement. "As for the issue of the physical checkup, it should be noted that every military service candidate is given the right to choose the gender of the examining doctor."
The crisis began in recent days after the rabbis realized that the army was preparing to draft many haredim, and particularly after yeshiva students complained that they had been required to undergo humiliating checkups (of their testicles, for example) - some by women.
Rabbi Auerbach, who is considered a "zealot," called on the students not to cooperate with the army and not to report to the draft office. Yeshiva heads affiliated with Auerbach adopted his firm stance and issued the same instruction to their students.
One yeshiva student told Ynet, "A friend of mine walked into the dining hall and asked as what does 'gay' mean. He's a righteous person and he really didn't know what it means. He went to the yeshiva head and told him how they had laughed at him at the draft office. When he asked to be examined by a man instead of a woman, they asked, 'Why, are you gay?'
"The army has lost its mind," the student added. "They don't understand what such a yeshiva student goes through. When he takes the bus for one hour he makes sure that it's a kosher bus, and here they just throw him into a secular environment with girls for a whole day of checkups?! People came back from there in complete shock. It's no wonder the rabbis responded the way they did."
Rabbi Shteinman, however, has refrained from issuing a similar instruction to his followers. MK Gafni, who is affiliated with the rabbi, threatened that "if things don’t change immediately, we'll recommend that the great Torah sages order the students not to report to the draft offices."
Some yeshivas affiliated with the Shteinman camp declared that the students should obey the military notice but refuse to sign any document when reporting to the draft office.