Ultra-Orthodox World Leaders Warn Against Israeli Army Draft

Call made at rally of thousands of Haredim held by United Torah Judaism.

Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community warned Thursday of the "danger of joining the army." The call came as thousands of Haredim attended a gathering held by United Torah Judaism in Jerusalem's International Convention Center.

"Here in the Holy Land, we're in exile among Israelis who act like goyim," said the Belzer Rebbe, one of the Haredi world's leaders, about the possibility that yeshiva students will be forced to join the IDF.

Almost all of the ultra-Orthodox world's spiritual and political leaders attended the rally. Their speeches, in Hebrew and Yiddish, made it clear the Haredi leadership feels under attack now more than ever, and that "doomsday" is upon them due to the draft threat.

The gathering also marked the ultra-Orthodox public's unity, after the rebellious "Jerusalem faction" in the Lithuanian community said on Thursday that it was returning to UTJ.

However, the group's leader, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, did not come to the gathering due to his frail health, his associates said.

The Belzer Rabbe spoke first. "We're still in exile," he said in Hebrew, rather than his customary Yiddish. "Today a danger hovers over yeshiva students in Israel as you all know ... fortunately we have Haredi parties who stand on guard to save them, defend Torah students and girls' schools from disturbance ... all now depends on the support we give them, i.e. in the ballot we put into the box on Election Day. This is what Judaism's honor in our Holy Land depends on."

Nir Keidar