Peres: Number of Haredi men exempt from army service reaching ´impossible´ level (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Yair Ettinger 07/16/12)
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President Shimon Peres commented Sunday that the number of ultra-
Orthodox youths to receive an exemption from military service "has
reached impossible numbers," calling for a more egalitarian sharing
of the bourdon of the nation´s security.
Peres, speaking in a meeting with Israel´s Chief Sephardi Rabbi
Shlomo Amar, warned that the debate on the sharing of military
service should be held "without any kind of extreme rhetoric, with a
supreme effort to find a real solution to the problem."
On Monday evening, a mass rally of students of zealot the Edah
HaChareidis´ school system is planned to take place in Jerusalem.
The rally´s spokespersons said that "Thousands of children will walk
Jerusalem´s streets in chains to show the general public how horrible
the plight of the ultra-Orthodox is."
On the other end of the ultra-Orthodox spectrum, members of "Tov," an
organization of ultra-Orthodox men that served in the Israeli Defense
Forces, put up a tent in Jerusalem. Even they, which usually form an
opposition to the ultra-Orthodox establishment, joined the party line
and called the government to call off plans to legislate any law that
would forcibly conscript ultra-Orthodox youth.
The excitement gripping the ultra-Orthodox camp lead rabbi Amar to
initiate the meeting with Peres, in which he asked the President to
join him in a call against "driving a wedge in the nation" through
the issue of ultra-Orthodox conscription.
He said that there were two sides to the issue. Besides the feeling
of unfairness on the part of the soldiers and their parents, there is
also "the yeshiva students that sacrifice themselves studying the
torah, by which they are safeguarding the Jewish nature of our
people, keeping the laws of our ancestors as they have from
generation to generation, they too must be appreciated for their
contribution through hard work with the torah."
Even before the meeting on Saturday, the chief rabbi wrote "Please my
brethren, how much longer will we continue inflaming hatred, how much
longer will we continue to push away from the embrace of brotherly
Peres agreed with the chief rabbi with respect to the manner in which
the debate should be held, but utterly disagreed with him on the
proposed resolution of the issue. Rabbi Amar asked the president to
let time take its course, saying that the special ultra-Orthodox
conscription programs "are growing and will naturally achieve their
The president thought otherwise. He recounted the story of how in the
days when David Ben Gurion was prime minister and he was his
assistant a small group of yeshiva students was exempt from military
"We went through six extremely difficult wars, always lacking
sufficient manpower; never lacking in brave men. The IDF is a brave
army," the president said.
"But meanwhile, the hatred hasn´t subsided, the enemy hasn´t
weakened, and the burden must be shouldered by every young and able
man who can carry a gun. During the 1948 war a group of rabbis asked
Ben Gurion to release the few yeshiva students in Israel from
military service in order to preserve the yeshivas," he said.
Peres said that the "idea was that yeshivas exist around the world
and it was unthinkable that they wouldn´t in Israel. I think that all
of us, even those that think that military service should be extended
to everyone, want yeshivas to continue to exist."
"We must find the right way to do this. It was I who managed the
negotiations at the time. We were talking about 200 to 300 yeshiva
students. In the meanwhile the numbers have become impossible," he
The president said he thought that "religious people too, those that
were exempt from service, understand that these numbers of yeshiva
students are unthinkable. The quantity has become a problem."
"I have to say that some improvement was made; many ultra-Orthodox
youths serve in religious military units and the likes. I call, like
the rabbi, for the debate to be held without any without any kind of
extreme rhetoric, with a supreme effort to find not a fair compromise
but the right solution to the problem. This isn´t a matter for
compromise; this is a matter for the right solution that would ensure
that in matters pertaining to the defense of the country the burden
is properly distributed in among the nation. And that what needs to
be done to ensure that yeshivas are maintained is done," he added. (©
Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 07/16/12)
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