Headlines in the hareidi media expressed anger and estrangement on Thursday as Members of Knesset voted to impose criminal sanctions on yeshiva students who do not enlist in the IDF.
“An Eternal Disgrace: Torah Students in Israel to be Sent to Jail,” declared the headline of the hareidi daily Mevaser, which is connected to the Agudat Yisrael Knesset faction.
The hareidi weekly Mishpacha, which is considered a relatively moderate news source, proclaimed, “Netanyahu, Lapid and Bennett Declared War on Torah Students.”
Hareidi news websites ran similar headlines. A main story on Kikar Hashabat declared that “Students of the Holy Torah will be Sent to Jail,” while a subheading opened with the words, “Persecution of the Torah world hits a new high.”
The Hadrei Hareidim website took a more moderate approach, but still made use of the Biblical verse, “I and my people have been sold,” from the book of Esther.
Hareidi rabbis have warned that if the government attempts to force hareidi men to enlist, it will get no cooperation from the hareidi community. Hareidi politicians, too, have urged the government to prioritize hareidi consent to the enlistment process. So have many Religious Zionist yeshiva heads.
The hareidi and Religious Zionist community believe, as do others, that Torah study is to be viewed as creating spiritual merit that translates to physical protection for the nation of Israel. Until 2012, yeshiva students were allowed by law to defer military service in favor of full-time Torah study; MKs are now creating a new law after the old law was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.