Rabbi attacked for deal over army conscription

Haredi thugs break into home of Kiryat Gat yeshiva head involved in plan to send Chabad students to IDF

Rabbi Moshe Havlin (Screen capture: YouTube)
Rabbi Moshe Havlin (Screen capture: YouTube)

Some 20 ultra-Orthodox Jews allegedly attacked the rabbi of the southern city of Kiryat Gat because he negotiated a deal under which Chabad yeshiva students would serve in the army, officials said Thursday.

Rabbi Moshe Havlin, 68, is the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the city as well as the head of its Chabad Lubavitch yeshiva. He is also a senior member of the governing body of Lubavitch Hasidim in Israel.

On Wednesday night a group of ultra-Orthodox zealots from Jerusalem allegedly broke into the rabbi’s home and harassed him and his wife, who was hospitalized after the incident. The group smashed furniture, blew shofars, dropped abusive leaflets on the floor and shouted biblical verses, according to a report on Lubavitch’s COL news website.

Police arrested three of suspected rioters, but they refused to cooperate or even to identify themselves, according to media reports.

The protesters, apparently affiliated with the extremist anti-Zionist Neturei Karta group, were angered at a deal to enlist Chabad yeshiva students brokered last month between the Lubavitch leadership and the Israel Defense Forces. The arrangement, reported by Kol Berama Radio, would see 85 percent of the students enlist by the age of 26.

Havlin was one of the brokers of the deal, which permits the students to travel to New York to study for two years in Lubavitch world headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. (Normally, any yeshiva student who travels abroad for more than 60 days loses his army exemption.) The students will then return for an optional two years’ study before enlisting by age 26, according to the deal.

The fliers that were left scattered over the floor of Havlin’s home said, “Moshe Havlin sells Jewish souls for the lure of money while acting as if he is saving them.”

Havlin called the attack “an embarrassment and a disgrace.” He told COL that “a group of extremists came and began to wreak havoc. My wife felt ill and was taken to the hospital for medical attention.

“There must be public condemnation of such behavior,” he said.

Several politicians spoke out against the attacks, the most senior of whom was Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), who called on “law enforcement to prosecute and severely punish those who attacked Rabbi Moshe Havlin.”

His spokesperson said that “Liberman wrote to the justice minister and the public security minister a few days ago regarding incitement and attacks on Haredi soldiers and those who work toward their integration in the IDF.”

“We must send a clear message to those trouble makers: that the State of Israel will not allow any kind of incitement or violence against those soldiers or rabbis,” Liberman said. “This attack on the rabbi crossed a line.”

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