Finance Minister Yair Lapid issued a direct appeal to hareidi-religious men in a press conference Wednesday.
“We need you,” he declared. “We’re in the same boat, and we can’t carry you on our backs.”
“Such a large community can’t stand aside and claim the state is not its problem,” Lapid argued. “If Syria is falling apart and thousands of Al-Qaeda terrorists are around, we need you, too, to be there with a gun in hand, protecting our lives and your own.”
“If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, it will happen to you, too, and if a third Intifada breaks out tomorrow it will happen to you, too,” he warned.
He dismissed hareidi-religious leaders’ concerns over enlistment as “fear-mongering.” Lapid said, “What’s happening here is really not an attack on the Torah world, what’s really happening is not an attempt to shake the foundations of your world.”
Lapid urged young hareidi men to join the army and the workforce in order to make better lives for themselves. “I want to talk to Asher, who is 28-year-old with five children, who lives in a tiny and crowded apartment in Jerusalem… He asks himself the same question that everyone does, ‘how can I give them a life that’s better than mine?’”
Lapid also turned to “Chaim” from Bnei Brak, “who is 16, a good boy, a good kid, who is talented in mathematics, and he has an older brother, but Chaim is better at math, and he doesn’t understand why G-d gave him this ability if He didn’t want him to use it.”
“Torah study is a wonderful thing,” added Lapid. “It sharpens the brain and teaches us the difference between truth and falsehood, between black and white.”
Lapid’s Yesh Atid party voted Wednesday morning to impose criminal sanctions on young hareidi-religious men who refuse to enlist in the IDF.