The wives of 18 hareidi Members of Knesset have written to Sarah Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, urging her to use her influence to encourage her husband not to jail yeshiva students who refuse to enlist in the IDF.
The women drew a parallel to the history of the upcoming Purim holiday, which celebrates the salvation of the Jews from a decree of annihilation – a decree that was overturned after the Jewish Queen Esther appealed to her husband to save her nation.
“Who knows, Sarah, perhaps for the sake of this moment you attained power,” they wrote.
The law being formed in Knesset that would criminalize hareidi non-enlistment is “a danger to national unity and to the Torah world,” they warned. The law would “tear apart the Jewish people,” they added.
“All this, unfortunately, is taking place against the backdrop of your husband’s decision to impose criminal sanctions on Torah students, under the awful enlistment law,” they wrote.
They recalled Sarah Netanyahu’s father, the late Shmuel Ben-Artzi, as someone who “recognized and developed Torah values.”
“As his daughter, we are sure you understand the upset among the entire hareidi community… over the terrible results of this decision that unfortunately your husband the Prime Minister has made.
“Please, we are crying out to you: fulfill your responsibility to the nation, and use your great influence with your husband the Prime Minister to prevent this mortal blow to such a large segment of Israel’s population,” they continued.
“Your actions could go down in Jewish history; you could be remembered as the one who prevented the creation of a terrible rift in the nation and a death blow to Torah scholars and yeshiva students,” they urged.
The Knesset’s Shaked Committee (also known as the Equal Burden of Service Committee) is crafting a law relating to the controversial issue of hareidi army recruitment. For decades, most hareidi men chose full-time Torah study over IDF service under laws providing a deferral for yeshiva students – a situation which angered many non-hareidi Israelis, who were required by law to enlist in the IDF or face prison time.
Hareidi leaders have warned that the committee’s work will have no practical effect. MKs can vote to punish hareidi men who do not enlist, they say, but hareidi men will continue to avoid enlistment in favor of Torah study no matter what the cost.