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Ultra-Orthodox leader suggests flexing financial muscles against conscription

A boycott of banks, secular Israelis’ businesses, and state organizations will stop religious men from being drafted, says prominent rabbi

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Will religious families boycott fun activities during the summer? (photo credit: Doron Horowitz/Flash90)
Will religious families boycott fun activities during the summer? (photo credit: Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

We won’t only protest in the streets, we’ll topple the economy, a leader of the ultra-Orthodox community told the religious weekly Besod Siah this week, in response to the Plesner Committee’s recommendations to draft religious men to military or national service.

Rabbi Baruch Genot, from the central ultra-Orthodox city of Elad, a prominent student of the super-influential Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, said creating a run on the banks, buying only imported goods and boycotting any secular-owned business would put the Israeli economy into a tailspin.

“If the entire ultra-Orthodox community withdrew all their money from the banks on a given day,” he said, “the banks would face a possible collapse.”

Genot laid down a detailed description of what could happen, if only the rabbis ordered their followers to do so.

The entire community “would stop buying produce made by secular Israelis and buy only imported goods,” so that within two months the “large food companies would suffer the consequences.”

If the community assigned one person to ride every bus (so they keep running) but ensured that no one else gets on them, the transportation companies would lose money, Genot continued.

Other possible sanctions could include boycotting cultural fairs and activities, amusement parks and hotels. The religious community can, for the two summer months, vacation only to sites owned by other ultra-Orthodox Jews and “interior tourism would be in a difficult situation.”

The financial sanctions, he warned, would be imposed if the secular government tried to punish ultra-Orthodox men who dodge military service.

“You want to sanction us for protecting you, we can also sanction you,” he concluded.

The so-called Tal Law was struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year. For 10 years, that legislation had provided a virtual exemption from military or national service for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students.

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