MK Meir Porush
MK Meir PorushIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The government’s attempts to create a law requiring hareidi-religious men to serve in the army will ultimately be fruitless, MK Meir Porush of the hareidi party Yahadut Hatorah warned Sunday.

In a meeting with senior Defense Minister officials, Porush warned that even if the government succeeds in passing a law, it will not be able to enforce it.

“If someone thinks that through a law, they can force Torah students to go to the army – they are mistaken,” Porush declared.

“The hareidi public believes with all its heart in the Holy One, Blessed is He, it believes that the Torah is the ‘elixir of life.’ This is a group that is tied to G-d’s Torah with all its heart and all its soul, these are people who are willing to give their lives for the sake of keeping the Torah,” he said.

That same dedication led even the most staunchly secular Israeli leaders to agree to let Torah students defer service, he added.

Porush told the story of a meeting between his father, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Levin, and then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. The three argued long and loud over the matter of hareidi enlistment, he said, with the two rabbis insisting that Ben-Gurion allow Torah students to defer service, while Ben-Gurion insisted that they enlist.

After an hour, he said, Rabbi Levin burst into tears. “After the room was quiet again, Ben-Gurion said, ‘I have decided, in light of your appeal, to grant your request,’ and he added, ‘The yeshiva students will be allowed to continue their studies,’” Porush said.

Some time later, he continued, his father met Ben-Gurion and asked him what had caused his change of heart that day. Ben-Gurion answered, he said, “When I saw the Holocaust survivor Rabbi Levin weeping and begging for his people, and you, Porush, the scion of the Rivlin family, telling me you would rather go to jail, you would rather leave the country – I broke down inside, and I thought, can I, as a Prime Minister, cause such deep pain to a Holocaust survivor, to a Rivlin descendant, who would go to jail… I changed my mind.”

Ben-Gurion’s deferrals were given to just 800 students, he said. However, he argued, the size of that group relative to the total population of Israel at the time is roughly equal to that of the thousands of Torah students who now seek exemptions, he said.

Porush also noted the common argument that many hareidi men who get deferrals to allow them to study Torah do not actually do so. Hareidi leaders are not seeking deferrals for those men, he said, but only for the serious students.

When asked how the army could know which is which, Porush responded that the army has dealt with more complex issues in the past.