Rabbi Zalman Melamed
Rabbi Zalman MelamedIsrael news photo: Shlomi Shalmoni

Rabbi Zalman Melamed, the Dean of the High Yeshiva of Beit El and one of the leading Zionist rabbis, sent a letter Monday to the members of the Bayit Yehudi party in which he said that teaming up with Yesh Atid – whose leader, Yair Lapid, is Finance Minister – was a mistake.

"I was wrong, in my naivete, when I thought that Yesh Atid is really after equality in bearing the burden [of military service]," he wrote, in a reference to the idea of making hareidi men serve in the military. "What is happening on the ground, and what they are doing, is a very harsh blow to the yeshivas, both in the Enlistment Bill and in the budget, including the Zionist yeshivas."

"They deceived us. They defrauded us. Therefore, we must say to the ministers and Knesset members in the Bayit Yehudi – no more! We are not partners in a pact for bringing down the Torah. Wage an open war against the damage to the yeshivas."

Rabbi Melamed also addressed Yesh Atid's religious education minister, Rabbi Shai Piron. "I call upon Rabbi Piron: I am convinced that you did not mean to join a party that would hurt the yeshivas, including the Zionist yeshivas. You came to unite and not to divide, not to create hatred between religious and secular people. You have no right to be a party to such moves."

The current state budget cut the budget for every yeshiva student by almost two thirds. After Bayit Yehudi applied pressure, some of the money that had been cut was put back, but the budget per student is still less than half of its former level.

Religious Zionist Bayit Yehudi formed a pact with anti-hareidi Yesh Atid because the alternative, according to Bayit Yehudi leader, Minister Naftali Bennett, would have been a left-wing coalition that would have included hareidim, and left out religious Zionists. This pact received support from rabbis who trusted Bennett's political instincts and rationale. While the cut to non-Zionist yeshiva budgets was expected - due to the fact that their students do not perform any form of national service - no one seemed to think that Zionist yeshivas would also be hard hit.