While Haredi Leaders Rattle Swords, Haredim Enlist in Record Numbers?

According to Arutz Sheva, sources close to the IDF reported that after last week’s announcement of the end of the Tal Law, thousands of young Haredi men visited the IDF recuritment offices and registered for the draft. If this is true, then a single Supreme Court announcemnt encouraged more recuits in one week than had signed up in all of 2010.

This news comes admist cries to fight to the death from Haredi leadership. On Friday, Rabbi Shlomo Auerbach published a letter in the Hebrew edition of Yated saying that Charedim should resist the draft even at the price of death. On Sunday, United Torah Judaism and Shas made a joint announcement that any change to the status quo was unacceptable. Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said “”We have no existence without Torah, we will give our lives for it,” .

But will they? Are we wise to be measuring the situation by looking at Haredi leaders, or is the Haredi community like any authoritarian regime: a society whose real opinion simply can’t be measured by looking at the public face?

Rav Dov Halbertal, a follower of Rav Elyashiv,  believes the Haredi community is fully behind their leadership, even if it means essentially negating the authority of the State  and following their rabbis as a separate theocratic government. On Monday he was interviewed by Kol Israel. When asked about the Haredi communities likely response to the Supreme Court decision he said:

Do you think [High Court Justice Elyakim] Rubinstein or the other two High Court justices are going to teach Rav Elyashiv about Moshe Rabbeinu? I don’t say this cynically. They may be outstanding justices but they are not talmidei chachamim and their opinion does not have a bearing on the actions of the chareidi community…. The gedolei hador guide us and we adhere to their words. The gedolei hador do not sit in the High Court, but in our community and they alone will make decisions for the chareidi tzibur…. no one is serving in the army as a result of the court’s decision and if they do not understand this, they are lying to you and your children. I am sorrowed over this, but Bibi for example is deceiving the public. Nothing is going to change.

Rav Dov Halbertal made the Haredi news last October because he argued that the Haredi community should stop all the religious deal making. Instead they should be fighting for a separation of religion and state, even if that means the state will accept Reform conversion. Even if there is an economic price, the benefits outweigh them. Separation would allow haredim to follow their life style in purity. It would also elminate the hatred caused by forced secular observane. People could again love and see the beauty in Judaism because anger would not be clouding their eyes.

Despite the joint statement on Sunday, United Torah Judaism and Shas may not be as united as it first seems. UTJ, Shlomo Auerbach, Dov Halbertal and Rav Elyashiv all come from the Ashkenazi faction of the Haredi community. The Ashkenazim have a reputation for being ideologically driven.

Shas, on the other hand, tends to be more pragmatic when pushed to the wall. On Saturday night during his usual Motzei Shabbat radio address, Ovadia Yosef told his followers not to go on the attack. They should keep studying and “Hashem will fight the war”. As for the joint declaration, HaAretz reported that some Shas members critized their leadershipfor”kneeling before the Ashkenazi leadership, which has taken a militant line.”

Back in December, Eliashiv told his followers that they shouldn’t go to college. While secular Israel was aghast at such a stance, former Eda Haredit spokesman Shmuel Pappenheim and several others argued that the declaration was in fact a sign of diminishing power. Eliashiv was making stern pronouncements precisely because more and more Haredim were defying the rabbis and seeking out work and trainging so they could have the skills needed to have a good income.

It may well be that all of the fierce statements coming from the Haredi politicians in fact recognizes that they are out of time and options. This is certainly one way to read one angry remark from a Haredi politician. According to Arutz Sheva, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman accused Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch of playing hit and run: “Judges know politics, too,” he explained. “They know how to leave an impression for the years to come.”

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