Two leaders of the Religious Zionist world express their different views about the Haredi Rally today in Jerusalem. MK Naftali Bennet and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.
From Naftali Bennet
The Shaked Law is good for Israel
This afternoon there will be a big demonstration against the bill that will integrate Haredim into employment and service. The claim is that the law will damage the Torah world and impose “criminal sanctions” against Torah scholars, which supposedly are being determined in the proposed law.
There is no basis for these allegations. You will not find a trace of criminal sanctions in the law.
Everyone, including those who are shouting, because they are expected to shout, knows that not one person studying Torah will be sent to jail. Period.
The law is balanced, gradual and good for all Israelis, and for the Haredim in particular.
Only the current government could lead and advance such a law.
After the terrible Holocaust, the Torah world was facing extinction. Six million Jews were murdered, and with them we lost Yeshivot and the Torah knowledge of generations.
Ben Gurion with his great wisdom, defined a small group called “Toratam U’mantam” (Torah is their craft), as those who would preserve the Torah.
Today the situation is excellent. Never in the history of the nation of Israel has there been such a large number of Torah students as there are today in the state of Israel.
However, today we face a unique problem. The Haredi community is getting larger and is not a partner in the economy and in service.
There is no Jewish historical precedent for non-participation in the workforce. Rabbi Yochanan was a shoemaker. Maimonides was a doctor. Rashi was a vintner. Throughout the history of Israel, our leaders worked.
Also, serving in the military is not an evil “decree” – It is a Mitzvah (a good deed). It is a great privilege.
With approximately 30% of first graders Haredi, Israel will not survive as a country unless Haredim are incorporated into our economy and service.
The Shaked Law will enable many young anxious Haredim to enter the workforce over the next four years and, in a very gradual way, enter into national service and the military.
For the first time Israeli law will recognize learning Torah as a major national virtue and value.
During the course of legislation there have been two sides that have made unnecessary noise: Those who hand out wet towels with an anti-Haredi narrative and those who deface posters with graffiti.
There is no place for either of you.
This week the Shaked Committee will finish its preparation of this important bill for a Knesset vote, and in a short time, together with love, we will advance the entire nation of Israel.
From Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu is the Chief Rabbi of Safed
UPDATE – Rav Shmuel Eliyahu decided the morning of the protest to not attend.
The following is my translation of a Hebrew article which appeared on the Srugim website, here.
There are those who have asked why I and members of major Zionist yeshiva heads have made a call to participate in the rally calling for recruiting of Chareidi Torah scholars. Why should thousands of hesder yeshiva students participate in this rally? After all, we view military service as a great mitzva (commandment). Because of this great mitzva, we have served in the army and educated our students in this way. The movement to have the Chareidim participate in the labor market is a welcome and positive one, and according to Halacha (Jewish Law); so why are we joining the struggle of the Chareidim?
Moreover, if in our opinion the participation in the wars of Israel is a mitzva; if in our opinion it is much more preferable for those who work, than those who receive charity; why then, are we participating in a rally against the new conscription law? After all, this bill is designed to have the Chareidim share in the work-place and in defending the country, which in itself is a great mitzva.
There are several reasons for this. First is the reckless, inconsiderate way that Yesh Atid promulgated the matter of criminal sanctions. Upon the establishment of the current government, it was decided to go in the way of dialogue, of consensual agreement and not criminal measures. Parts of Chareidi society have already been drafted, other parts are working, and some are studying at academic institutions. This process can be encouraged and moved along by economic means.
In contrast, there are those who want to re-educate the Chareidim. Unfortunately, the MKs of Yesh Atid have overcome the members of the Bayit HaYehudi, and the Shaked Committee has decided on criminal sanctions. For this alone, one should protest. One should empower those people who are working (on this) without hatred, without a trying to educate the Chareidim, or to impose a lifestyle (on them).
Yair Lapid and his party’s insistence to impose such a significant move upon the Chareidim, is a bit reminiscent of his father’s hatred of the Chareidim and the religious. This is an attempt to bend the will of the Chareidim instead of discussion, negotiation. It reminds on of the story of the destruction of Gush Katif.
Yair Lapid himself wrote in Yediot Acharonot that it was clear that the expulsion from Gush Katif would not bring peace. He only meant to break the will of the National Religious public, to show them that they were not the boss of the country. It’s more than a feeling that Yair Lapid is trying to do the same to the Chareidi public – trying to break it instead of talking with them. We must resist with all our might against the recklessness of Yair Lapid and his friends.
The second reason is to honor the Torah world of the Chareidi community. These are people who fulfill the Mishna in Avot (6:4) literally, “(This is the way of Torah,) to eat bread with salt, drink water sparingly, sleep on the ground and live a life of hardship.” Even if I disagree with them on some things I cannot ignore their devotion to Torah. About this, King David said in Psalms (119:63): “I am a friend to all who fear You.”
The third reason is pain. You cannot ignore the pain of hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihood was broken, following the severe cuts imposed Yair Lapid on the budgets for the Yeshivot. You cannot ignore the pain of families left without bread and diapers. Even if we do not agree with everything, we cannot ignore the pain. “I am with him in (his) trouble.”
I am deliberately not answering the question of why I am not taking revenge against those Chareidim who do not relate to the Torah world of national-religious with respect. Anyone with eyes in his head clearly knows that revenge and bearing grudge is the opposite of the path of Torah. It is also not effective. The arguments amongst us serve the Israeli left more than anything else. We need to increase unity, and in the end the respect and honor will come.
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu is the Chief Rabbi of Safed, and one of the Rabbis of Derech Emuna.