Hareidi prayer rally
Hareidi prayer rally Flash 90

The hareidi political establishment on Monday was celebrating the mass rally that took place on Sunday in Jerusalem, with MKs from UTJ and Shas praising the “order and sincerity” of the hundreds of thousands of participants. Estimates of the number of those present at the event ranged from 400,000 and up.

Speaking Sunday night, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni said in a radio interview that police had told him that in the area of the protest against drafting hareidi yeshiva students, there were close to 400,000 cellphones that were monitored. “If you take into account the fact that most children and yeshiva students, and many women don't have cellphones, the minimum estimate has to be about 700,000.”

MK Eliezer Menachem Mozes (UTJ) said that the protest was a kiddush Hashem, a glorification of G-d's name. “All the people who were there came to pray and express their quiet suffering and indignation at this edict,” he said. MK Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) said that the hareidi community had put the government on notice. “It should be clear now – no one is enlisting and no one is serving. Not one yeshiva student will serve in the IDF,” he said.

The protest against the impending Knesset legislation, which would require all but a few 18 year old hareidi yeshiva students to enlist in the IDF, was noted in news reports around the world, including in the hareidi communities of the U.S. There, however, community leaders quietly expressed their concern over the adamant attitude of hareidi political and religious leaders in Israel against IDF service and allowing students to work. “The army is a problem, without question,” an influential hareidi community leader from New York told Arutz Sheva in an interview.

But the community is going to have to figure out how to deal with it, without fighting it. Protests are not a solution, they just put off the solution. If this division persists, where hareidi community members do not serve in the IDF at all, it will lead to a major social rift in Israel,” said the leader, who asked to remain anonymous. “The secular public is no longer prepare to accept the situation that prevailed until now.”

While placing some of the blame on the army and secular politicians, “who don't understand the hareidi lifestyle,” the community leader said that the hareidi leadership needed to lead the way to a solution. “The leadership cannot close its eyes to what is going on,” he said. “They cannot allow themselves to be responsible for a war over religion. There is a middle way, and the hareidi leadership must be the ones to lead it,” he added.