Draft Refuseniks

When a country goes out to battle against its own citizens, one never knows where and when it will end. A hareidi citizen responds emotionally to the Supreme Court decision to stop funding hareidi yeshivas.

Prof. Shmuel Neumann

OpEds Black hatters
Black hatters

The Supreme Court is no longer even beneath my contempt.

A dozen years ago, the Supreme Court’s tacit, thinly veiled vapid anti-Semitism towards the “too Jewish” citizens of Israel triggered a demonstration that brought out 400,000 hareidi men to protest the Supreme Court's consistent anti-hareidi bias.

The gypsies have a saying “When the fish smells, it smells from the head.”

The almost unanimous decision of the Supreme Court – in the absence of any legal precedent or any legislated bill, in a step that is nothing short of reprehensible collective punishment - fabricated its own law in penalizing yeshiva subsidies for any student who has not enlisted. Their “law”, instantly and joyously implemented by Finance Minister Lapid (Yesh Atid) echoes the sentiments of the anti-hareidi and anti-religious sector of Israel's secular "Zionists".

Israel without Torah is a body without a soul, said Rabbi Saadia Gaon over a thousand years ago. That makes Israel not just another purposeless country, but a country that should be the land of the spiritually living Jews.

Those of us who are still in touch with our soul, will fight these destroyers.

The attempt to close our yeshivas and destroy our way of life is a looming tragedy any way you try to cover it up. The Romans in the peak of their Empire failed, the Greeks in their heyday were put in their place by the Maccabees, and every other Empire fell after their failed attempt to destroy Torah institutions. Is the Jewish state following in their footsteps due to a vocal group of anti-religious activists?

We draw strength from the modern day miracle that from the ashes of the Holocaust we have resurrected a resilient and vibrant people.

And in declaring war upon our practice of Judaism, proponents of the draconian decision underestimate the resilience of our community, forged in the fire of two millennia of torture, dismemberment and massacres, throughout which we preserved our religion.

Punishment by the Israeli government in the form of monetary sanctions and jail terms are laughable. We survived much worse. No matter how horrific our suffering, we never lost faith. No matter how many times our communities were destroyed, we never stopped rebuilding yeshivas.

Our unbreakable determination is born from surviving generations of abuse, watching the slaughter of family members in front of our eyes rather than turn over other Jews in hiding. We refused, and continued to be true to our beliefs. We watched as our synagogues were burnt to ashes, our Rabbis mutilated in public, crying out Shema Yisrael. Our women and children were tortured with unspeakable horrors. But we still went on believing.

We read every year on Rosh Hashana, how the Romans seared the skin from Rabbi Yismael’s face with sharp blades, and we are moved to tears reading that when they removed the skin or Rabbi’s Gamliel over the place where he placed Tefillin, his scream was heard from one end of the world till the other. We read every year on Rosh Hashana, how the Romans seared the skin from Rabbi Yismael’s face with sharp blades, and we are moved to tears reading that when they removed the skin or Rabbi’s Gamliel over the place where he placed Tefillin, his scream was heard from one end of the world till the other. We are moved to tears reading that when they beheaded one of the greatest Sages, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, that Rabbi Yishmael Cohen Gadol, held his head up and said “Woe to the tongue who has murmured words of Torah”. Yet we still believe in the power of Torah.

The Temple was burnt down, and the evil Titus desecrated the Holy of Holies in barbaric fashion, but we remember this and still go on believing.

We preserve the memory of those who have hurt us, far after their failure to leave a trace of anything worthy of recording in history books. Every Passover, we relive the horrors the Jews endured in Egypt. We say how in each generation they come to harm us but God saves us from their hand. We are also sensitized to the difference between those who try to kill us and those who try to uproot us entirely, like Lavan Ha’arami. 

After all this, we have a Jewish state in our ancient homeland. No physical threats face us from within, but we are still the object of internal anti-Semitism. 

The Supreme Court decision has shown us that this “equal service” legislation is not meant to "help the hareidi community" by allowing those who wish to work to do so and does not stem from a patriotic desire to have us take part in the IDF experience. It is a spiteful move, nothing short of a thinly veiled attempt to close all yeshivas and secularize our yeshiva boys thereby destroying the learning that was rebuilt during the last 60 years. Else why not wait a few weeks until the legislation is passed?

Do not mistake our reticence. Many of us pray that scape-goating the the hareidi community is a passing temper tantrum and that good governing sense will prevail.

The Israeli Supreme Court of Law notwithstanding, proponents of “equal service” will find that our resilience is still unbreakable.

Even if you choose to empty all the yeshivas and put us all in jail, as some legislators yearn to do, we will still be learning Torah in jail, but we will not be forced to do what we have not agreed to do. 

We are a stiff necked people and that is a good thing, because once we are committed, we will stay loyal and faithful no matter what.

This war was declared on hareidim, the gauntlet thrown by using the well-worn metaphor of the Jew (now read hareidi Jew) as parasite. 

It is inbred Jewish resilience that gave the Russian Refuseniks the courage to stand up to the KGB knowing full well what was awaiting them in Siberia and the Gulag. In the end, the Russian refuseniks won and in the end, the hareidi refuseniks will win as well.