As ultra-Orthodox Call for Army Recruiter's Death, IDF Shows Restraint With Condemnations

Ultra-Orthodox leaders issue call to pray for death of 'evil' army recruiting officer, plan yet another large demonstration against 'Holocaust' of conscription on Tuesday.

A protest against induction in the Israeli army by members of the ultra-Orthodox community in Bnei Brak, Mar. 26, 2017.
Reuven Castro/Walla News

The extremist wing of Israel's ultra-Orthodox community is intensifying its incitement against officers involved in recruiting members of its community, but so far, the Israel Defense Forces is making do with issuing condemnations of their actions.

Over the past few days, followers of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, the Jerusalem–based ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, leader, have held demonstrations at intersections throughout the country to protest the arrest of the draft-dodgers. They have also held regular protests in Beit Shemesh opposite the house of Yaakov Roshi, who heads the IDF department that deals with yeshiva students and is involved in military court cases against those evading the draft.

In addition, they have started plastering Beit Shemesh, a predominantly religious locale outside Jerusalem, with posters urging people to pray for Roshi’s death.

The posters term Roshi “that wicked doer of evil, preeminent among the soul-hunters who, with overflowing hatred, hands Jewish boys over to prison and cruelly strives to extend their imprisonment.” They add, “In every place, people should pray while citing his name as a disgrace,” and recite Psalms about “the destruction of the evildoers” while mentioning his name and his mother’s.

Most full-time students in yeshivas are actually entitled to draft deferrals. But on Auerbach’s instructions, his followers have been refusing even to show up at recruiting centers to arrange their deferrals. Consequently, some have been declared draft-dodgers.

On Sunday evening, the IDF issued a statement denouncing the incitement against Roshi and expressing its “full backing” for his work. “This grave incitement, however wild and unbridled it may be, won’t deter the IDF from working to enforce the conscription law,” it added.

That same evening, a stormy demonstration took place in the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak. By about 9:45 P.M., at least seven demonstrators had been arrested. Even children were involved in the clashes with the police.

Earlier on Sunday, Auerbach’s followers circulated posters that quoted him saying, “We must fight until the last drop of blood.”

Auerbach’s supporters are also preparing for a mass demonstration in Jerusalem on Tuesday against what they term a “Holocaust” — the army’s efforts to persuade more yeshiva students to enlist. Members of the Eda Haredit, an extremist, anti-Zionist branch of the Haredi community, plans to join the demonstration.

Far more significantly, however, Rabbi Zion Boaron has urged ultra-Orthodox Sephardim to join that demonstration (both Auerbach’s followers and the Eda Haredit are affiliated with the Ashkenazi community). Until recently, Boaron was himself a state official, serving as a judge on the national Rabbinical Court of Appeals. But he said Sephardim must protest what he termed “the decree to draft yeshiva students” — though in fact, these students aren’t currently subject to conscription; the government has so far tried only to increase their voluntary enlistment.

Boaron also attacked the Sephardi Haredi party, Shas.

“To our great sorrow, Sephardi representatives in the cabinet and Knesset aren’t lifting a finger to correct the ‘regulations’ that is, the ‘decrees,’ against the yeshivas,” he said in his statement.