Senior ultra-Orthodox rabbis are calling on their followers not to cooperate with the new plan
to draft 1,300 yeshiva students into civil service, while slamming the government for offering advanced programs aimed at tempting them to abandon their Torah studies.
Under the title, "To make them forget your Torah" (from the Hanukkah
prayer), haredi Lithuanian newspaper Yated Ne'eman argues that national service – even in the form of civil service – has already been prohibited by senior rabbis in the past and present and is aimed at "removing yeshiva students from the holy yeshiva halls."
The newspaper goes on to quote Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, considered the most senior Lithuanian leader these days, as saying that "we must warn publicly against this serious and dangerous phenomenon, which only aims to destroy the foundations of our existence, against the essence and mission of a yeshiva student to devote his life to studying Torah."
Rabbi Shteinman adds that the public must beware of "the government leaders' new attempts and temptations, which are harming the foundations of Judaism."
The haredi press also mentions comments made by the late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv against the government, which through these programs seeks to form "a collection of haredim subject to rebellious people, their control and their culture."
The rabbis are slamming the initiative despite a quiet dialogue being held between the Civil and National Service Administration and the rabbis.
According to Sar-Shalom Gerbi, director of the Civil and National Service Administration, "We are dealing with quite a few difficulties within the haredi society when it comes to drafting volunteers for civil service.
"The move aimed at maintaining this service is crucial in guaranteeing the future of the program, which succeeds in recruiting thousands of haredim to share the burden and join the labor market.
"We believe that the growing trend in civil service will continue, and that within a short time we'll be able to reach 10,000 haredi graduates and volunteers who will contribute to the society and community and integrate into the labor market and studies."