A tale of two sit-ins
Hebrew Media Review

A tale of two sit-ins

Ultra-Orthodox protests against the draft intensify, as does the open-ended strike at Hadassah hospital

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox clash with Israeli police during a protest in Jerusalem on February 6, 2014, following the arrest of a Haredi draft-dodger. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox clash with Israeli police during a protest in Jerusalem on February 6, 2014, following the arrest of a Haredi draft-dodger. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Months after the issue of IDF enlistment for the ultra-Orthodox community abruptly disappeared from public discourse, Haredi anti-enlistment rallies throughout the country on Thursday reignite the debate in the Hebrew papers.

The ailing Hadassah Hospital is also highlighted in Friday’s news coverage.

Yediot Ahronoth dubs the outcry on Thursday “The Haredi day of rage” in its headline. “The message was clear: This is the beginning of a civilian holy war,” it reports. The newspaper also quotes Yoel, an 18-year-old Ponovezh yeshiva student from Bnei Brak and participant in the protests: “I didn’t show up to the military induction center per the rabbis’ orders,” he said. “We are commanded in times of annihilation to sacrifice ourselves if a foreign government orders us even to tie our shoes. The public is determined and unified and there is not enough room in prison for all of us.”

In an op-ed for the paper, entitled “Let the IDF choose who they draft,” Yossi Yehoshua argues that the IDF has too many soldiers in its ranks, particularly now amid attempts to cut the defense budget. However, Yeshoshua maintains, despite the overall surplus, the units that really need more manpower — namely, the technology and cyber-warfare units, as well as combat — are lacking.

“If the IDF had the choice, it’s likely it would choose to draft a smaller number of Haredim from the recruitment objectives the Shaked Committee is suggesting. But those they would draft, they would send to units that really need them, and the true benefit to the IDF and Israeli society would be greater.”

Israel Hayom quotes Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s response to the demonstrations. “Whoever is not part of the system of obligations should not expect rights. It’s too bad the High Court had to remind the state that it must follow through on its legislation. More than its ruling on financial matters, the High Court established that they are fed up, that the state must decide,” he said.

Both Haaretz and Maariv delineate the various streams of ultra-Orthodoxy to assess how representative of the broader Haredi public are the crowds that took to the streets on Thursday.

Haaretz emphasizes that no mainstream ultra-Orthodox rabbis or Haredi politicians partook in the rallies on Thursday, but that it was rather “zealous factions,” headed by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, that led the demonstrations.

Maariv, too, differentiates between the protesters led by Auerbach and the rest of Haredi society. While the ultra-Orthodox politicians publicly decry a universal draft law, behind closed doors they have consulted with the Shaked Committee and have admitted there are concessions they “could live with.” The central concern is the question of criminal sanctions and the draft quota. However, for these meetings to be successful, the Haredi leadership must quell protests such as those that erupted on Thursday, the paper reports.

Further indication that the Haredi politicians are doing their utmost to downplay the issue in the public realm — while taking an active, if circumspect, role in the process — are statements from a United Torah Judaism MK following the rallies.

“The mainstream Haredi public opposes violence and protests. That is [a measure] to be reserved for when there are no other options and under direct order of the rabbis. That time has not yet come,” he is quoted saying.

A hospital on life support

Hadassah’s severe financial deficit and the ongoing strike by doctors also dominate headlines on Friday.

Israel Hayom focuses on a letter from Hadassah administrators to the Health Ministry, threatening to close the hospital doors if the economic crisis is not settled in the coming days.

“If we do not receive funding from the Finance Ministry to complete payment of January salaries to our workers and suppliers, we will shut down the hospital and refer our patients to other hospitals,” they wrote.

With the strike in effect and medical staff significantly reduced, affected patients have nonetheless supported the doctors’ move to apply pressure to the Finance Ministry, the paper says.

“The support we’ve received from patients is heartwarming,” said Dr. Sagit Arbel-Alon. “There are those whose treatment has been pushed off who have voiced their pain, but with that we won their support and it’s moving.”

Yediot Ahronoth features an op-ed by Dr. Alex Greenberg, an orthopedist at the hospital, lending an insider’s description of the situation.

“My friends and I are aware of the mistakes made along the way and we are prepared to chip in — because it is our home,” he writes.

“I studied at Hadassah, I did my residency at Hadassah, and I presently work at Hadassah. In the last snowstorm, I left home at 5 a.m., in complete darkness, and I walked for an hour to reach the hospital, although I was not on call, because I knew it would be difficult for other doctors to get there. I wasn’t surprised to find my department head by my side that morning. That’s Hadassah — that’s how we want it to stay, and for that we struggle.”

Maariv also features a report on the children of African migrants in Israel who are detained in holding centers in southern Israel with their parents. Some 200 children of migrants have been held in the past year alone, and a private association submitted an appeal to the Knesset this week to find alternative solutions.

An Eritrean parent described the toll the month-long imprisonment in the Saharonim facility took on his 2-year-old daughter: “Long after she was released, she continued to suffer… She underwent a difficult trauma, she refused to eat or drink, was depressed all the time,” he said. “She had difficulty sleeping and, to this day, she cries occasionally for no apparent reason.”

read more: