Witness to the Fallacy of Blindness
It’s obvious to all that Eretz Yisroel is in a perpetually precarious state of existence: Living in the shadow of an Iranian nuclear bomb in the making, encircled by heavily armed, sworn enemies, singled out for scorn by the so-called community of nations.
All of this makes the situation of acheinu b’nei Yisroel in artzeinu hakedosha unique, and uniquely dangerous. This mortal threat to our survival is something of which we’re all painfully aware.
Yet, there’s another crisis unfolding there that few if any of us are aware of. It presents an immense existential threat to our nation in general and to the yishuv in Eretz Yisroel in particular, and it raises the danger posed by the enemies seeking our destruction to unthinkable levels.
Simply stated, the danger we speak of is that the flourishing community of yeshivos and b’nei yeshiva, that has grown by leaps and bounds across the length and breadth of Eretz Yisroel will be decimated – not by 2040, nor even in as long as a decade from now. Instead, within a handful of years, the world’s largest and most vibrant community of lomdei Torah will undergo a drastic downsizing. The Olam haYeshivos as we know it – and with it, the frum community of which it is the beating heart – will cease to look as it does today.
That’s not hyperbole. It is incontrovertible fact.
And it is chilling beyond all words. The following paragraphs will set forth the state of affairs in Eretz Yisroel today regarding the drafting of b’nei yeshiva into the Israeli army, based on first-hand knowledge, in-depth research and copious documentation. Little if any of this information has been known or publicly discussed in the American Torah community – until now. Anyone who contests these plainly demonstrable facts is welcome to step forward and provide counter-evidence in refutation of what is written here. We are confident that our rendition of the terrifying reality will withstand scrutiny.
As the Israeli draft law stands today, the government is required to set a goal of drafting several thousand chareidi young men for military service each year and to engage in various activities designed to achieve that objective. This includes the use of well-trained, undercover government agents from within the chareidi community whose mission is to persuade the b’nei yeshiva they target to enter the army.
Currently, all b’nei yeshiva are exempt from serving, provided they follow the prescribed procedures and otherwise qualify for exemption. It should be stated that under the current law, a majority of b’nei yeshiva have a fairly easy time in securing their exemptions: They’re able to appear in groups at conscription offces, spend minimal time undergoing physical examinations and promptly receive the necessary exemption papers.
But here’s the untold story: Thousands of b’nei yeshiva – in particular, those who are vulnerable either because they learn in smaller or lesser-known yeshivos, or due to having certain backgrounds, such as Sefardic b’nei yeshiva from weaker chareidi backgrounds and ba’alei teshuvah – are being targeted by the army and other governmental departments for intensive recruitment efforts. Many of these b’nei yeshiva have been imprisoned for failure to comply with every last detail of the bureaucratic exemption process, despite good faith efforts to do so. Many others remain free but live in constant fear of being apprehended and jailed.
Large numbers of these b’nei Torah, however, are neither in military prison nor on the run.
Unbelievable as it may seem, they are now serving in the Israeli army. Despite being full-fledged b’nei yeshiva, they have been wrenched from the bais medrash and forcibly inducted into the IDF for failing to meet the legal requirements for exemption. Their conscription enables the army to fill the yearly quotas of thousands of chareidim demanded by Israeli draft law. The basis for the drafting of many of these bnei yeshiva is that they fail to meet the technical requirements of a “ben yeshiva” as defined by law.
A bochur cannot qualify for exemption as a ben yeshiva unless he learns in a yeshiva gedolah that has at least twenty-five talmidim who qualify as b’nei yeshiva, i.e., who are at least eighteen years old.
A bochur who has earned any taxable money from employment, even if only during bein haz’manim or bein hasedarim, cannot qualify for exemption as a ben yeshiva. Thus, for example, abochur who earned a meager salary during Yom Tov break to help with his impoverished family’s expenses will be forced into army service. Only talmidim of offcially recognized yeshivos qualify for exemption; no new recognitions, however, have been issued in over a year, and the talmidim of such institutions are thus not exempt.
Under new rules about to be instituted,
1) a bochur in his last year in a yeshiva k’tanah (the equivalent of an American mesivta) who will be one of the first in his class to reach the conscription age of eighteen, will not be eligible for exemption because his yeshiva k’tanah doesn’t have the minimum number of b’nei yeshiva, as described in a)
2) bochurim learning in yeshivos that do not accept Israeli government funding will not qualify for exemption from the draft. The army is in the process of setting up a sophisticated inspection system under which, in an unprecedented breach of the religious autonomy of the yeshivos, it will begin to directly intervene in those institutions to enforce the draft law.
Appeals to individuals and organizations to use their political clout to help the large numbers of bnei Torah who are in desperate straits, in the army, in prison or cowering in hiding from the authorities, have been in many cases unsuccessful. Everything that has been described until this point reflects the deeply disturbing current state of affairs. The Israeli military refers to it as a “tekufat histaglut,” a very temporary “adjustment period,” in order to enable the frum community to adapt to the coming, far more ominous reality.
In 2020, the next stage of the draft law will come into effect, under which what were previously non-mandatory yearly recruitment goals will become mandatory yearly quotas of chareidi young men required to enter the army, and the quota levels will rise as well.
Then, in 2023, the law providing exemptions to b’nei yeshiva comes to a complete end. The only b’nei yeshiva who will continue to be free of army service will be those over the age of twenty-four, who are entitled to a permanent exemption.
However, the large numbers of b’nei yeshiva who reach conscription age each year, numbering approximately seven thousand annually, will be forcibly drafted. It boggles the mind to envision the mass conscription of b’nei Torah in Eretz Yisroel, but that is the looming reality.
Let us speak plainly: The world is looking on mutely as the evil Iranians, hell-bent on destroying the Jews, proceed with building the Bomb; by all accounts, they are perhaps a decade away from achieving that diabolical goal. But long before that point – indeed, in a short six years from now, if the current situation continues – the peerlessly glorious world of yeshivos overflowing with young and old, with talmidei chachomim delving continuously into the depths and breadth of Torah, will simply no longer exist in the form it does today. And with it, the single greatest source of protection from that Bomb and all the other threats we face – the intense, nonstop limud haTorah of thousands — will be severely undermined.
In the foregoing paragraphs, you’ve been introduced to events and facts of which you were probably unaware; of which, strangely, no one speaks; and about which, our numerous media outlets are inexplicably silent. You, too, have a choice: You can turn the page, and turn your attention to other matters.
אהרן משה שכטר בשם חברים
I am lost for words.