ZAKA Head: Hareidi World Lacks Leadership

ZAKA head explains why the secular and hareidi-religious communities cannot understand each other.

Maayana Miskin ,

Hareidi-religious boys in Meah Shearim
Hareidi-religious boys in Meah Shearim
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The hareidi-religious community is up in arms over plans to require hareidi men to enlist in the IDF and define anyone who does not do so as a criminal, this after over six decades in which men could choose full-time Torah study over IDF service.

Arutz Sheva discussed the issue with Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, a former anti-Zionist zealot who now heads the ZAKA organization and encourages the hareidi community to work with the state and not against it.

The hareidi community lacks leadership, Meshi-Zahav declared. “There’s no leader. There’s no Rabbi Shach to get up and give one short, definitive declaration,” he said. Rabbi Elyashiv, recognized as the hareidi leader after Rabbi Shach's demise, died a year ago and no one rabbi has yet become the undisputed leader.

“The hareidi politicians are confused,” he continued. “They mix up the budget issues with equal burden of service… Everyone’s saying something different, everyone’s pulling in a different direction.”

The hareidi public is confused, too, he added. The hareidi world “doesn’t know what’s going to happen, what it wants, what to say or not to say,” he stated.

Ultimately, hareidi arguments and secular arguments regarding the issue of “equal burden of service” and IDF enlistment “are two tracks that will never meet,” he warned. “Neither will ever understand the others' basic concepts.”

On the one hand, he said, “No argument from the hareidi camp, even if it is right, will ever, ever stand in the face of a bereaved family.” Meshi-Zahav recalled the many times that he has been called to assist grieving families of fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism".

On the other hand, he said, “No secular person will ever understand the concept of the ‘Torah world’” – the hareidi community’s dedication to Torah learning."

Meshi-Zahav said that he now believes that the IDF is of critical importance. “What is certain… It is so important to protect the state, and nobody else will do it if we do not. Just seventy years ago we were like the dust of the earth… “

“On the other hand,” he continued. “To try to force something on such a large population, that really does believe in its ideology, to try to change that with sanctions, or the threat of jail… Only totalitarian states do that.”