Dispute Over Haredi IDF Draft |

Lapid Appeals to ultra-Orthodox: My Brethren, Think of How Other Israelis Feel

In wake of government agreement to hold ultra-Orthodox army draft dodgers criminally accountable, finance minister tries to warm up to Haredi sector.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Finance Minister Yair Lapid tried to warm up to the Haredi public at a press conference Wednesday, in wake of the government agreement to hold ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers criminally accountable

"I want to address my Haredi brethren and not Haredi politicians," he said. "I want to speak to Asher, who has five children and lives in a crowded Jerusalem flat. He looks at his children occasionally, children who always look small when they are sleeping, and wonders, 'how can I provide a better life for them than mine.' He tells himself, 'I am prepared to leave no stone unturned for my children, but how will I do it.'"

Lapid said the plan to draft Haredim does not constitute an attack on the Orthodox sector, and there's no intention to force secularism on them. "I want to address Haim from Bnei Brak, who is 16 and is successful at math," he said. "He knows how to make calculations in his head and doesn't understand how the Blessed Lord gave him this ability if he can't use it."

Lapid said the beauty of Torah is that it sharpens the mind and helps differentiate between truth and lies. "Anyone who underwent this wonderful education must have the capacity to understand that they are just trying to scare him." Rather than secular coercion, he said the state was founded for every Jew to live as they please, but that the current situation can't go on this way, noting that the number of Torah-related draft exemptions grew from 400 in 1948 to tens of thousands today, "and this public can't stand on the side and say the state is not its problem," Lapid stated.

Lapid turned to the Haredim in an effort to have them consider how the current situation makes other Israelis feel. "I want to ask you to take a moment to try and see the other side," he said, asking them to try and imagine what it would be like to have a yeshiva full of hundreds of students when sirens start blaring, the radio announces war has broken out and no one inside moves. "We can no longer carry you on our backs - things will change," he said.

MK Meirav Michaeli (Labor) responded to Lapid, saying the draft reforms are a "list of populist, violent and complete unequal steps, which have no connection to reality and can't happen. She said this "round of PR" would not result in drafting Haredim but cause damage, and that the Perry committee, which didn't talk with its target audience, is stirring up a destructive social and cultural war in Israel.

The ministerial committee tasked with formulating legislation to provide guidelines for drafting the ultra-Orthodox, headed by Yesh Atid Minister Jacob Perry approved guidelines that would have criminal sanctions should the Haredim not meet the draft goals. Some 1,800 yeshiva students would be exempt in such a case. If targets are met, a new goal would be set with interim economic sanctions.

Yair Lapid addressing Haredim at press conference, May 28, 2013. Credit: Emil Salman

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