With the elections just two days away, competition between rival parties has been heating up across the political spectrum. In the hareidi world, however, the primary competition for voters’ hearts is not between parties, but rather, between voting for a hareidi party or not voting at all.
The anti-Zionist Satmar Chassidic sect is firmly in the 'no voting' camp. The group’s leader will be in Israel this week for a granddaughter’s wedding, and while in the country plans to speak out against participation in Israel’s elections.
He will speak at a rally organized by the Eida Hareidit, a major representative group in the Ashkenazi hareidi world that is known for its strong anti-Zionist views.
In recent days posters were put up around Jerusalem calling on the hareidi community not to vote. “The hareidi community is in its most difficult period yet,” the posters argued, “The government is trying to undermine the essence of hareidi Judaism.”
Hareidi representatives in Knesset are useless, they continued. “The time has come for the community to stand up for itself… and to cut itself off once and for all.”
In the other camp, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein of the Ponevezh Yeshiva has declared that those who choose not to vote “have no share in the World to Come.”
Rabbi Edelstein said that whoever does not vote is considered to have separated himself from the community, an action that commentator Rabbeinu Yona once declared causes a person to lose their share in the world to come.
The only thing preventing the government from enlisting yeshiva students to the IDF is hareidi-religious MKs, Rabbi Edelstein argued. “We must take action to bring as many hareidi representatives as possible [into Knesset] so they can act against the decree of enlistment,” he said.
One thing both the pro- and anti-voting camps agree on is their desire to prevent the government from requiring full-time yeshiva students to enlist in the IDF. The question of hareidi-religious IDF enlistment has been a major one in the campaign, following the cancellation several months ago of the Tal Law, which granted an automatic deferral to yeshiva students.
Several mainstream parties on both the left and right have called for hareidi-religious men to be required to serve, and to face sanctions if they do not.