Satmar rabbi to visit Israel with money for army draft opponents

Zalman Leib Teitelbaum asks for lists of students hurt at anti-draft protests and of yeshivas boycotting first call-up

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Satmar rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum (screen capture: YouTube/The Lakewood Scoop)
Satmar rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum (screen capture: YouTube/The Lakewood Scoop)

One of the two rabbinical leaders of the anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect of Hasidim is due to visit Israel bearing cash for anti-draft yeshivas that boycott IDF draft notices, and for ultra-Orthodox students injured or beaten during anti-draft protests.

Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, who has tens of thousands of followers in the US, is due for a 24-hour visit for a family celebration. He has called for a list of yeshivas whose directors refuse to comply with Israel Defense Forces draft orders, Channel 2 reported. Many ultra-Orthodox yeshivas allow their students to go to army induction centers to go through the process of applying for deferments, which eventually become exemptions.

In a letter to yeshiva heads, Teitelbaum has also asked for the names of yeshiva students who have suffered injuries in anti-draft protests.

Both groups are to benefit from a fund at the rabbi’s disposal.

File: Ultra Orthodox Jews belonging to the Satmar Hasidic group headed by Satmar Admor of Williamsburg, Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, wait for his arrival in the Ultra Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem on January 20, 2013. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Ultra-Orthodox Jews of the Satmar Hasidic group, headed by Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, wait for his arrival in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, on January 20, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90, File)

Jerusalem police on Tuesday arrested six ultra-Orthodox Israelis demonstrating in the capital against the detention of two Haredi men who failed to show up at the army induction center to enlist.

In December, thousands of Haredi protesters demonstrated against the draft. Several protesters clashed with police, who in turn sprayed tear gas at the rioters.

Many in the ultra-Orthodox community shun the mandatory national service that applies to most Israelis, and the community has historically enjoyed blanket exemptions from the army in favor of religious seminary studies.

Reforms passed in the Knesset in 2014 that sought to do away with the exemptions and gradually increase ultra-Orthodox recruitment met fierce opposition from many in the community.

Rabbinic leaders of the community view military service as a threat to their way of life.

In late November 2015, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Equal Service Law that dramatically rolled back the 2014 reforms and scrapped collective penalties imposed if annual quotas for ultra-Orthodox draftees were not met.

A number of ultra-Orthodox recruits have been disowned by their families and ultra-Orthodox soldiers often complain of harassment and violence by community members.

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