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Bennett: Torah Students Will Not Go to Jail, Period

Economy Minister says the planned hareidi rally against the new draft law is unnecessary. "Military service is a mitzvah, not a decree."
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/2/2014, 3:32 AM

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Flash 90

Economy Minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett said on Saturday night that the upcoming hareidi rally against the new draft law is unnecessary.

Sunday’s planned mammoth demonstration, that has been called “the million man protest,” was prompted by a series of government decisions that are perceived as hurting hareidim.

"Tomorrow there will be a big demonstration against the law to integrate hareidim into employment and army service. The claim is that the Torah world is being hurt, and that ‘criminal sanctions’ against Torah scholars are stipulated in the law. There is no basis for these claims,” said Bennett.

“You will not find a single mention of criminal sanctions in the law,” he continued. “Everyone, including those who are shouting because they need to shout, know very well that no Torah student will be sent to jail. Period. The law is balanced, gradual and good for the entire people of Israel, and the hareidim in particular. Only the present government could pass such a law.”

“There is no historical precedent for non-participation in the workforce,” said Bennett. “Maimonides was a doctor. Rashi was a winemaker. Throughout the entire history of the people of Israel, Israel's greatest scholars also worked. Military service is not a ‘decree’, it is a mitzvah. It is a great privilege.”

“When approximately 30% of first graders are hareidi, Israel will not survive if they are not incorporated into job market and into army service,” he explained. “The Shaked Law, over the next four years, will enable young hareidim to enter into the workforce, and gradually integrate them in the civil and military service.”

“For the first time Israel will have a law that recognizes Torah study as a major national value,” continued Bennett, who denounced actions that have been taken by both sides - those who are in favor of the law and those who are against it.

Hareidi leaders have expressed strong opposition to criminal sanctions for yeshiva students, and pro-enlistment leaders have warned that strong sanctions could create a backlash that would mean fewer hareidi men in the army, not more.

Both Bennett and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who  threatened to bolt the coalition unless the new draft law includes criminal penalties for hareidi draft evaders, have been the target of a campaign by hareidi activists opposed to the new draft law.

This week, a mock-up photo of Bennett and Lapid dressed up as Nazi officers was widely distributed on social networks.

In the mock-up, the two are seen burning volumes of the Talmud and Torah scrolls. In a second mock-up, yeshiva students are seen wearing concentration camp prisoner uniforms.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino has ordered that an investigation be started over the incitement attempts against Lapid and Bennett.

At least one Hassidic sect has threatened to flee Israel en masse if the draft law is ratified, and a boycott has even been threatened against Judea and Samaria in "retaliation" against the Religious Zionist community for the measure.