Rabbi Haim Navon responded to comments made by Rabbi Yitzhak Neriah about the religious Zionist community at the 13th Jerusalem Conference hosted by Arutz Sheva on Tuesday.
Rabbi Neriah had said that "for every 2,000 people in the national religious community we create one rabbi." Rabbi Neriah also compared the national religious community to the haredi community and said that the former is lagging far behind as the latter has more students learning and therefore creates more rabbis.
Rabbi Navon rejected these comments on Facebook, posting that "people have asked what my opinion is regarding these comments which were made by a national religious rabbi suggesting that the national religious yeshiva (Torah academy) world is small and insignificant. How can it be that in a community of over 1 million people, only 1,700 men go to learn at post secondary yeshviot, and a small handful of them become rabbis?"
"I have no idea what they are talking about," responded Rabbi Navon during an interview that followed on Radio Kol Hai. He relayed a story about his teacher at Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. "When people spoke to Rabbi Lichtenstein about the crisis of students learning the Talmud, he responded by saying, '40 years ago there were 4 hesder yeshivot, now there are over 70.' A similar increase has taken place in the amount of high schools for both boys and girls," said Rabb Navon.
He also pointed out that for every open position in the Rabbinate, numerous candidates from the national religious world jump on the opportunity. "I do not know of any open educational or rabbinic positions that have remained empty for a prolonged period of time. I do know plenty of unemployed teachers and rabbis who cannot find positions. So I don't think we have a problem in creating enough rabbis."
Rabbi Navon compared the yeshiva world today to that of the period prior to the Holocaust, and following in depth research which he did with a historian, he was told that from the 10 million or so Jewish people in eastern Europe at the time, there were only 4,000 yeshiva students total.
"Currently, in a group of only 1 million national religious Jews in Israel, there are 1,700 yeshiva students each year. This seems to me to be a huge success for the national Zionist movement," Rabbi Navon concluded.