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As IDF Prepares to Draft Religious Jews, Agudah Searches for Solutions

Jan. 2, 2014

While the Israeli government's Shaked Committee continues efforts to finalize a new Orthodox draft law, the IDF is moving ahead with preparations for a large chareidi induction. A new chareidi infantry battalion has already been created and another is set to begin operating next year. According to the Haaretz report, the second chareidi infantry battalion has already been established and in 2015, a third will come into being, with the latter being part of the IDF’s Homefront Command. Efforts are also underway to accommodate an expanded Shachar induction, which is intended for the older chareidim, avreichim, who will now have to serve. In 2013, the IDF inducted 2,000 chareidim and in line with the expected law, that number will increase to 2,300 in 2014 and 2,600 in 2015. The IDF in November inducted two chareidi companies, another first. One of these companies is subordinate to Netzach Yehuda, better known as Nachal Chareidi and the second attached to an infantry battalion that will be completed with the inductions of 2014.

Meanwhile, rabbis associated with Agudath Israel, a historically non-Zionist movement that has sent representatives to the Israeli Knesset to fight from within, have been considering their options. Originally they had planned a trip and mass rally in the U.S. against the draft, but that trip was postponed this week after American and Israeli politicians promised they would make a last-ditch to change the anti-religious law. The Hamodia newspaper wrote: "The organizers said that the news of the trip also alerted government and official establishment entities in both Israel and in the United States and the powerful consequences of the trip led these entities to request that they be given another opportunity to try and prevent the anti-religious laws. Perhaps this will obviate the need of Gedolei Yisrael to make the trip in the original format, with all that it entailed."

Yisroel Eichler, a Member of Knesset from Agudah's UTJ party, said in a December 23 interview on Army Radio that that if the draft law were not repealed, religious Jews might have to leave the State of Israel. However, in a later statement made in Yiddish, he acknowledged that this was only a threat and would probably not be carried out. A more practical reaction to the draft would be to renounce Israeli citizenship, he said. Then, he said, it would be clear to all that the State of Israel does not represent the Jewish people.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website states that it is possible to renounce one's Israeli citizenship only if one is living abroad and can show present authorization of other citizenship or an official letter from another government promising that local citizenship will be granted. Renunciation of citizenship is also subject to the approval of the Israeli Minister of the Interior.

Our comment:

We welcome this development in which Orthodox Jews who have tried to maintain their principles by fighting from within the Israeli government are beginning to see that a change of tactic is necessary. This decree to draft Orthodox Jews may prove to be a blessing in disguise, G-d's way of helping Torah Jews to distance themselves from the state. As for the secular Zionists, they may not want the burden of supporting the scholars of the Orthodox community while they refuse to serve in the army, but it is clear that without the Orthodox as citizens, it will be impossible for the state to maintain a Jewish majority over the next few decades.