Bnei Brak – The haredi daily newspaper Yated Neeman reported on Monday that Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the most senior rabbi in the haredi world, has called on yeshiva students not to enlist in the civilian service program, the framework designed as an alternative to military service for haredi men.
According to an article published on Monday in Yated Neeman, a mouthpiece for the Degel Hatorah political party, Shteinman’s comments were made in response to the government decision on Sunday to allow an extra 1,300 yeshiva students to enlist in the civilian service.
The article reported that “with the publication of the government decision yesterday, our rabbi and leader the great Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman gave an instruction to warn the masses against this severe and dangerous phenomenon, whose only purpose is to undermine the foundations of our existence and is against the very essence and purpose of a yeshiva student which is to dedicate his life to Torah study.”
The paper continued by saying that Shteinman said that the haredi world had to “defend its existence” and take precautions “against all the new temptations of the leaders of the regime which damage the foundations of Judaism, whose only purpose is to create a dangerous erosion of students away from the sanctuary of Torah, and so people must be warned not to be enticed whatsoever to go to these services.”
Unusually for an announcement of this kind, Shteinman’s words were reported in a news article on page three of the newspaper and not published under his name and signature in a public decree on the front page.
According to one haredi commentator, the unusual format of the announcement could indicate that Shteinman is simply trying not to lose face and be out-manoeuvred by more radical rabbinic leaders who have taken a harsher line than him in the past on the issue of national service.
At the beginning of the last decade, Shteinman gave tacit support to both the establishment of the Nahal Haredi combat battalion for ultra-Orthodox soldiers and the terms of the Tal Law, both of which were bitterly opposed by most of the haredi rabbinic leadership at the time.
In response to the report, the Hiddush religious-freedom lobbying group denounced Shteinman’s words and said that since the rabbi inherited the leadership of the haredi world he had “continued to lead the rejectionist haredi front to any compromise or form of integration like his predecessors rabbis Shach and Elyashiv.”
“Shteinman has again proved that there is no partner for dialogue in the haredi leadership,” said Hiddush director Attorney and Reform Rabbi Uri Regev,
“It must be hoped that new and more fitting leaders will emerge from the haredi public, who will know how to lead the community to integrate into the economic life of the country and to share the burden of national service,” he added.
Content is provided courtesy of the Jerusalem Post