Thursday, December 26, 2013


Dov Lipman: Time To Tell The Truth About The Draft Of Charedim

an Op-Ed by Israeli Member of the Knesset Rabbi Dov Lipmam, originally printed in the Jewish Press

Time To Tell The Truth About The Draft Of Charedim

photo_21Serving as a member of Knesset has taught me so much. One of the most important lessons relates to truth and lies.

I am amazed and saddened by the untruths spoken by many leaders in the religious camp. The degree of lying makes it seem as if verses from the Torah and teachings from our sages about the importance of telling the truth and staying away from lies don’t exist.

For the sake of clarity, I am now going to reveal the truth about the Israel draft law that is on the verge of passing. What I am writing is fact.

Readers may be very surprised to learn these facts because the Yesh Atid-sponsored draft law is very different from what you have been reading in the haredi press and hearing from haredi politicians and activists.

The law says nothing about haredim going to jail. (When asked about the recent arrest of a yeshiva student that sparked protest, Lipman told VIN News, That has nothing to do with Yesh Atid or the current government. Yeshiva boys always show up for what is called their tzav rishon and then they receive their deferment. This student was told not to even show up for that - and the consequence for not even showing up for a chareidi is the same as it is for any citizen who does not show up.) It says the army has specific goals for how many haredim will serve. As long as those goals are met, there is no mandatory draft of anyone who is in yeshiva.

The law actually begins by doing the opposite of drafting yeshiva boys; it says that anyone who is over 22 when the law is passed will be completely exempt from any service. This frees them to enter the work force or continue learning. The law then sets out its goals. Among those 24 and under, the goal is for 3,200 haredim to begin service between now and July 2014. Two thousand would serve in the army and 1,200 in national service. Army service can be done in Nachal Chareidi, an exclusively haredi unit with minyanim and time for learning, or in Shachar Kachol, which teaches its participants trades like computer and electric engineering which they can then use for a livelihood after their service.

photo_7The national service includes a variety of options – some are security-oriented (police, etc.) and some involve civil service in medical and other areas of need. Service is for two years.

If we analyze the tens of thousands who are currently in yeshiva learning, there are most certainly 3,200 who are not learning day and night, and all the roshei yeshiva have said that anyone not learning day and night should serve in the army. Between July 2014 and July 2015 another 3,800 would begin service – 2,300 in the army and 1,500 in national service. The final goal is to have 5,200 begin service by 2017 – 3,000 in the army and 2,200 in national service.

Considering the fact that every year around 7,500 haredim reach the age of 18 and that many roshei yeshiva have said that 50 to 60 percent of the boys in yeshiva should not be there long term, these goals are very reasonable and preserve the value of Torah study for those who are truly cut out to do so day and night.

According to this plan, 35,500 would continue learning day and night while 17,000 would the country for two years in a framework geared to haredi young men – 10,000 in the army and approximately 7,000 in national service. The law asks for those goals to be met. Straightforward and simple. If the goals are not met, then in 2017 all boys with the exception of 1,800 per year will be drafted. Those who refuse to serve will incur the same consequence as anyone else in the country who breaks the law. That may include jail time.

photo1Amazingly, even if we reach such an unfortunate situation, 12,600 men between the ages of 18 and 24 will be learning full time as their service to the country in addition to those who are above those ages who decide to focus on Torah learning.

A group of rabbis are traveling to the United States to rally Americans to protest the draft law in Israel.  The purpose of this column is for all American “chareidim” to know what the law says.  As this column reveals, anyone who joins this protest is protesting a law which says that boys who are not learning day and night should serve in the IDF in chareidi units or in national service.

These are the facts.

Now for my opinion: If the haredi community would simply say, “Yes, we will send all boys who are not learning day and night to serve,” there would be no battle or tension. But the haredi political leaders are not doing this. Twenty-five percent of boys leaving yeshiva translates into less money for those yeshivas. The law would also allow more bnei Torah to enter the work force and earn a living, which means fewer young men would require government handouts – the justification for the very existence of these political parties. They don’t want to lose this. Therefore they prefer to mislead the public and do battle. They prefer to fight the most generous offer they will ever see from the secular side and to tell their young men to not serve, thereby forcing the country into a corner and placing over their heads the threat of potential arrest in 2017.

The hallmark of the Jewish people has always been emes. It’s a tragedy that for selfish interests political leaders and activists are not telling the truth – and doing so as if it is in the name of Torah.

I hope this column lifts the veil of sheker that has settled over this sensitive issue. American donors to Israeli yeshivas should demand that those yeshivas send the boys who are not learning day and night to the army. Doing so would not only fulfill the instructions of Torah leaders and spare them the indignity of wasting their time, it will keep you from wasting your well-earned and well-intentioned donation money. Demand transparency. Insist on truth. Nothing else should be expected of those who claim to represent the epitome of truth – our Torah.

Rabbi Dov Lipman is a member of the 19th Knesset with the Yesh Atid party. He has rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a Masters in education from Johns Hopkins University.


  1. Thank you for posting this. I read this too. However getting it to the people that are being manipulated for self serving interests it nearly impossible. Turning and twisting words has become fine tuned by these rebels.

    Same goes for the " poor picked on Haredim" of babuls beit shemesh ! !

  2. Why is Lipman lying? It is a fact that his party is actively pushing to pass a law so that Haredim avoiding the draft will get a criminal record. Lipman's party does not care about equality, and specifically avoids making this criminal penalty apply to all citizens (i.e. Arabs). I did not heard this from the Haredi media, but rather the regular media and the mouths of the politicians. At most, the Bayit Yehudi sidekicks are deliberating how to remove the Yesh Atid demand for criminal records.

    Unfortunately, this is a puff piece in order to take the wind out of the Haredi counter-attack against Lipman's anti-religious Yesh Atid party. Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi were (are) opportunistic populists who came to make headlines. Working properly in the Knesset involves a bureacracy that is supposed to ensure due diligence, and prevent rash policies like these from being implemented.

    It is undeniable, that there was already an increasing trend for Haredim to join the army and national service. A L L security and national service representatives I've heard interviewed confirmed this.

    Lipman and Yesh Atid did not want to tackle the hard work of behind the scenese negotiations with Haredi leaders to quietly encourage the trend and to come up with even more solutions for Haredim (and Torani National Religious youth) to serve in a more proper environment. Instead, they came to make headlines and look for blood. This is not how to build a strong cohesive country only a sign of 'amateur hour' at the Knesset.

  3. I would like to point out that unfortunately this article tries to convince the clueless public that the bill isn't that bad, but it is full of inconsistencies.
    First of all MORE Chareidim WANT to service in the IDF/national service/etc than there is space to give them a basic civil requirement - service in accordance with their basic religious requirements (kosher food and time to pray daily when not war time) etc. The ones who don't get a spot defer service because they cannot break their religious values in order to serve in the Army. This makes sense.
    So, if you draft more every year, and especially with a penalty in 2017 for being "bad" and not sending enough boys into the army, you have a problem if the army does not plan on increasing the number of spots available in Chareidi units. The Army says it absolutely does NOT intend to do such a thing!
    Hence, the law tries to force Chareidim into service without giving them basic religious rights in that service. Rabbi Lipman ignores this completely.
    Moreover, he quotes that all Yeshivas say 50% of the boys shouldn't be there. This is blatantly not true. Even if it was, by 2017 he wants to draft 5,200 out of approx. 8,000 - that is WAY more than 50%! So the law IS trying to take away boys with the potential and drive to learn all day away from that learning. And to add insult to injury, it does not care if that boy will be given even something as minimal as kosher food in his army or civil service. If he refuses to serve in a non-religious unit that breaks Shabbat, serves him non-kosher food, and other such things, he goes to jail.
    Rabbi Lipman doesn't say that either.

  4. B"H I just saw the results for a Beit Shemesh voting redo. Let's hope this goes well.

  5. In addition to Josh's and Anonymous's very valid comments, Rabbi Lipman's statement:

    If the haredi community would simply say, “Yes, we will send all boys who are not learning day and night to serve,” there would be no battle or tension. But the haredi political leaders are not doing this.

    is also totally false. Eli Yishai has been saying this for many months and so have other Shas-party MKs. And nevertheless the Lapidniks want more - much more. These lies - for someone who claims to stand for the truth - are simply incomprehensible.


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