A yeshiva student who refused to report to the IDF recruitment center, after a senior rabbi called on his followers not to respond to draft notices,
says he would be "glad to go to prison."
The young ultra-Orthodox men who obeyed the call of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, leader of the radical Lithuanian Orthodox faction, are defined by the army as defectors and will be handled by the Military Police for failing to show up at the recruitment center after being called up three times.
The rabbi's aides are now waiting to see how the IDF will handle the new draft dodgers.
"The question is whether the Military Police will arrive to arrest students within the yeshivot or not," one of the associates told Ynet. "There was a report that the defense minister decided to postpone the draft, but according to what we were told by the army – they are unaware of such an order.
"Every day, concerned parents arrive at the rabbi's house to inquire what they should do when their child received a call-up notice, and the rabbi always gives the same answer: 'Nothing, and if he is arrested – we will go to jail with him.'"
On Saturday night, Rabbi Auerbach commented on the "equal share of the burden"
issue after meeting with one of the leaders of the extreme Eda Haredit faction, Rabbi Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, in a move seen as a radicalization of the battle against the IDF draft.
"It's a destructive decree that must not be obeyed under any circumstances," Hapeles newspaper – considered Auerbach's mouthpiece – quoted the rabbi as saying. "If we thought a compromise could be reached, we could have already done so 2,000 years ago and would not have needed all the killings and destructions."
Auerbach added that "when they threaten to take some guy, it's not that guy's personal problem; it's the problem of all the Jewish people. They are considering ways to do it by plotting against individuals, but it's not the personal problem of the family or the guy, but of all the people of Israel.
"When they attempt to uproot religion, every single person and every individual they try to hurt and take – it's part of the destruction, part of the uprooting of religion."
The rabbi spoke in the house of Torah study adjacent to his home in Jerusalem's Shaarei Hesed neighborhood, in front of hundreds of his followers.
He said there was no room for compromises or changes in the current situation. "We must not open any door," the rabbi declared. "And if we're strong, they'll realize that they have no chance.
"They can't do anything if we insist with all our might, declare that things are crystal clear, that it's a destructive decree that must not be obeyed under any circumstances. It is clear and simple that religion cannot exist without the holy yeshivot, without any limitations."
Moshe, a student in one of the well-known Lithuanian yeshivot, says that nearly a month has passed since he failed to obey the third call-up notice sent to his house.
"My report date in the red notice was on the second day of Adar (February 12). I had to report to the recruitment center by 6 pm. The army called my parents' home and told them that. I didn't show up, and I haven't heard from them since."
He adds that "when the notice arrived I spoke to my father, who went to the rabbi's house. And the answer was not to go there and not to report. I am basically considered a defector for a month now.
"I haven't heard anything from them since, but I know I'm not alone. My neighbor is a Vizhnitz Hasid and is in the same situation, because their Rebbe
told them not to go either."
Aren't you afraid of being arrested?
"On the contrary, they're welcome to come and arrest me. There are other guys in my situation who are waiting for that. Rabbi Auerbach will go with me too.
"In the meantime we are not many, just a few dozens. Whoever got the notice in the winter before the rabbi's order has already reported, but when the next notices are issued the numbers will grow."
The rabbi's associates added that the new message he conveyed to his followers was "unchanged."
"Any agreement or compromise in regards to a certain outline is declared by the rabbi as a change which we must not agree to under any circumstances," one of the associates said.
Several months ago, Rabbi Auerbach ordered yeshiva students not to report to the recruitment centers under any circumstances following "humiliating checkups"
they had been forced to undergo, including intimate examinations by female doctors.