Top Haredi rabbi: Push to draft us into army is fueled by hatred of Torah life

Moshe Hillel Hirsch tells students some people simply don’t realize Torah study is saving the country, says community must make a stand that will likely include ‘self-sacrifice’

File: Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch, head of the Slabodka Yeshiva, seen in Bnei Brak, on February 27, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
File: Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch, head of the Slabodka Yeshiva, seen in Bnei Brak, on February 27, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

A leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi recently declared that some of those pushing to draft Haredim into the army are acting out of hatred of religion, saying the community must make a stand to preserve Torah study that will likely involve “self-sacrifice.”

Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch made the remarks during a talk last week at Slabodka Yeshiva in Bnei Brak which he leads, Channel 12 reported Saturday night.

Hirsch spoke after the High Court of Justice ruled last week that the government must stop providing funds to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas for students eligible for Israel Defense Forces enlistment — as the legal framework for deferring their military service will expire at the end of March.

It was a dramatic development in a decades-long battle over draft exemptions granted to members of the ultra-Orthodox community, many of whom study Torah in yeshivas instead of serving in the army. Those who oppose the exemptions argue the burden of meeting the defense needs of the country should be evenly shared across the population.

Addressing his yeshiva on Saturday night, Hirsch said the court ruling amounted to “completely canceling our right to learn Torah in the Land of Israel for the time being.”

“We will need self-sacrifice for the Torah,” he predicted, adding that “it is impossible to know in exactly what form.”

Illustrative: Haredi students study at the Kamenitz Yeshiva, in Jerusalem, August 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Continuing the theme that the developments are an attack on Orthodoxy itself, Hirsch went on to explain that there were two types of people “who are pushing to cancel the matter of Torah with us.”

The first, he said, don’t hate the ultra-Orthodox or even religion in particular, but rather, as non-believers, they “don’t realize that the Torah is what is saving us” and the country from enemies in the region.

But, Hirsch asserted, the second type of people don’t care about equality, “they hate religion, they hate Torah” and those who dedicate themselves to its study.

“There is proof” of that “in what happened in recent days but I don’t want to specify here,” he said. “It was only because of hatred. Against us. Hatred of religion. Hatred of the Torah. And hatred of Torah scholars.”

“They want to destroy us and we will need to stand against them. And there will be self-sacrifice. I hope we don’t come to that. But it could very well be that we will come to sacrifice when we need to stand against them. And this is not the time to specify.”

Past demonstrations by Haredim against the army draft have often descended into violent clashes with police.

Ultra-Orthodox men clash with police during a protest outside an army recruitment office in Jerusalem, March 4, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

A government resolution from June 2023 instructing the IDF to temporarily not draft Haredi students despite the expiration of a law governing the matter will itself expire at midnight on Sunday night.

The court decision, which goes into effect April 1, comes after the government delayed for days the submission of a proposal to the court for plans to increase ultra-Orthodox military enlistment.

Haredi parties lambasted the High Court’s decision, with the head of United Torah Judaism, Housing and Construction Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf, describing it as constituting “severe harm to those who toil in Torah” and “a stain and a disgrace.”

Shas party head Aryeh Deri said the decision constituted “unprecedented maltreatment for Torah study in the Jewish state.”

Most Jewish Israeli men are required to serve nearly three years followed by years of annual reserve duty. Many Jewish women serve two years. But the politically powerful Haredim, who make up roughly 13% of Israeli society, have traditionally received exemptions if they are studying full-time in a yeshiva or religious seminary. The exemptions — and the government stipends many yeshiva students receive through age 26 — have infuriated the wider general public.

That frustration has peaked since Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught and the war that has ensued, as soldiers are losing their lives, and some are being asked to expand their reserve service amid a manpower shortage and as the threats facing Israel grow.

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