Rabbi Avihai Ronsky, former IDF Chief Rabbi and head of the Itamar Hesder yeshiva, said Sunday that he “did not understand” the reasoning of Religious Zionist rabbis who plan on participating in Sunday's mass hareidi protest against the government's draft plans.
In a Facebook posting, Rabbi Ronsky, considered Minister Naftali Bennett's (Jewish Home) rabbi, wrote that “the protest is taking place to protest the State of Israel in general, and the IDF in particular. Participating in the protests paints the entire Religious Zionist camp with the same brush, and is likely to cause many to believe that we think like them.”
Last week, several Religious Zionist rabbis – led by Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, the rabbi of the Ramat Gan yeshiva – advocated attending the protest, in which hundreds of thousands of members of the hareidi community are expected to gather and protest against the draft bill, which will require thousands of yeshiva students to leave their studies and serve in the IDF. Rabbi Shapira said that Religious Zionist Jews should participate in order to protest the idea of jailing students who remain in yeshiva and refuse to serve.
He changed his stance Sunday, after hareidi newspaper Yated Ne'eman denounced Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a leader of the Religious Zionist movement, after he called on members of the Religious Zionist community to stay away from the event. The newspaper, said Rabbi Shapira, had insulted Rabbi Druckman by calling him, among other things, “an exploiter of the Holy Torah,” and Religious Zionists, he said “cannot be a part of this, we cannot be partners in disrespect for Torah.”
Also canceling planned participation in the event was the Association of Community Rabbis, a rabbinic leadership group headed by Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu. Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu, CEO of the association, noted that the withdrawal is in the name of Torah values. “We were going to attend the rally in order to protest an insult to Torah,” the Rabbi noted. "However, we may not disgrace the name or honor of Torah scholars [in the process]. Rabbi Druckman, Shlita, is one of Israel's leading rabbinic figures and Yated Ne'eman must respect that. The same mouths who forbid [joining the IDF for Torah's sake] cannot permit [slandering a rabbi for Torah's sake] - honoring the Torah is honoring, first or foremost, Torah scholars,” Rabbi Eliyahu added.
Writing in his Facebook posting, Rabbi Ronsky said that given the perception that many people now had that the Religious Zionist community agreed with the hareidi groups, “we should not be surprised that a large number of non-religious Israelis despise the Religious Zionist community.”
The hareidi campaign against the draft law was barely a step below incitement, he added. “Anyone who is familiar with the law knows that it does not prevent serious students from learning Torah. The required numbers of draftees from the hareidi community could easily be supplied from the thousands who roam the streets of Bnei Brak day and night. There is no need to enter yeshivas to draft anyone,” he said, adding that “the saddest thing is that this protest is likely to weaken the positive trend in which Torah was being more accepted in daily life in Israel.”