Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, a highly respected leader of the “Lithuanian” yeshiva hareidi religious Jewish community, on Thursday released a letter condemning the High Court's declaration that the Tal Law contradicted Israel's Basic Laws, and that the Knesset could not vote to extend it.
The letter sharply criticized the possibility that Yeshiva students would be drafted into the IDF, saying that “a terrible edict has fallen upon us and seeks to damage the heart of Jewry. There are those who G-d forbid seek to draft Yeshiva students, but this will not be.”
The exemption for Torah students was begun during the days of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, who acceded to the request of the Chazon Ish, the revered head of hareidi Jewry at the time of the establishment of the state. In addition to the desire to kindle the light of Torah in Israeli yeshivas in the new Jewish state , there was a pressing and recognized need to reestablish yeshiva learning after the murder of so many European Torah scholars in the Holocaust. Yeshivas flourished in Israel, with critics claiming that the large number of yeshiva students exempted today was far from Ben Gurion's intention and others saying that Israel has become the world center for in depth Torah study because of the historic agreement.
The Tal Law has for the past several years regulated the exemption process for Yeshiva students, with most full-time Yeshiva students exempted from army service, at least for the duration of their studies. On Tuesday, the High Court declared that the law was unequal, and that a new law that ensured all segments in society take on the burden of IDF service must be enacted.
The letter, which was published in hareidi religious newspapers, said that no Sages (Gedolim) in previous generations had even given their authorization for Yeshiva students to join the army. “They have called this an attempt to destroy our religion. This is something that we are commanded to lay down lives down for. May G-d change the intentions of all those involved to a positive direction, that they should not seek to harm the existence of Torah and Judaism.”
On Wednesday, the Knesset rejected several “replacement” proposals for the Tal Law, and MKs are now working on new legislation to replace the law when it expires several months from now. A report Wednesday said that police were increasing their patrols of hareidi religious neighborhoods over the possible reaction by community members to the court's decision.
In his letter, Rabbi Auerbach also hinted at the threats Israel faces from Iran. “May G-d save us and preserve us from all those who plot against us, from all the evil nations who seek to destroy us, and bring our final redemption,” the letter concluded.