Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan
Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan Knesset Channel

As rabbis from the National Religious movement sought to ensure that ties with the hareidi world remained intact, several Jewish Home MKs on Monday criticized Shas for its long-time dismissal of Religious Zionism as somehow "less religious."

In an interview on Israel Radio Monday, MK Uri Orbach said that “Shas has controlled the religious institutions long enough in this country, and we see what they have done with them, alienating many secular Jews from Judaism.”

It was time for Religious Zionists to have a chance to correct those problems, he said. “We are [also] not advocates of 'automatic drafts' or 'automatic conversions,'” Orbach said, referring to a Shas televison commercial during the election campaign that portrayed a non-Jewish Russian woman getting a conversion certificate by fax as she stood with her husband-to-be under the synagogue wedding canopy. “We are not here as 'second-best' to Shas, and we are perfectly capable of leading the state's religious institutions without their 'guidance,'” Orbach said.

Taking a tough tone was MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, number four on the Jewish Home list, formerly in charge of the rabbinic courts. In an interview with the Knesset TV channel, Rabbi Ben-Dahan said that he was “shocked” at comments by Eli Yishai that implied that Jewish Home was joining forces with Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid to “orphan the Torah world. The Torah is as precious to us as it is to Shas,” Ben-Dahan said.

Ben-Dahan also slammed Shas for its nasty election campaign against Jewish Home. “During the elections they called us 'a home for Gentiles,' implying that we were less religious – and they have not yet come to ask us to forgive them. I have learned [Torah] more years in yeshiva than Aryeh Deri, Eli Yishai, and Ariel Attias put together,” Ben-Dahan said, naming the three leaders of Shas.

Regarding the issue of the draft of hareidi Yeshiva students, Ben-Dahan said that Shas and hareidi party United Torah Jewry had only themselves to blame for the demands by Yair Lapid that all but a few hundred top scholars be drafted. “They turned the yeshivas into a place to escape the draft,” he said, and it is no wonder that the secular world responded as is it has.

With that, he added, “I have nothing against Shas personally.”

Meanwhile, Rabbi Tzefania Drori, Rabbi of Kiryat Shemona and the head of the Hesder Yeshiva in the city, said that Naftali Bennett and the Jewish Home should be careful not to make any deals with Yair Lapid's party regarding the forced drafting of yeshiva students. The Jewish Home MKs, Drori said, “know that they need the support of the rabbis,” he said in a radio interview.

Drori is considered one of the leading rabbis in the Religious Zionist movement. In the interview, he said that “under no circumstances” should the party make any deals with Yesh Atid to demand the full draft of yeshiva students. The Jewish Home MKs needed to consult with rabbis and others involved in education before making any such decisions. “If Bennett makes these kinds of decisions alone, it will be the end of him politically.”

Religious Zionist rabbis have been meeting with their hareidi colleagues to try to come up with a joint solution to the draft issue.