To: Maran Hagaon Hagadol Rav Aharon Yehudah Leib Shteinman shlita, Hagaon Hagadol Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsh shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Slobodka, Hagaon Hagadol Rav Dov Landau shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Slobodka, Hagaon Hagadol Rav Gershon Edelstein shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Ponovezh, Hagaon Hagadol Rav Aviezer Piltz shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Tifrach, Hagaon Hagadol Rav Dovid Cohen shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron, Hagaon Hagadol Rav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Ateres Yisroel, Hagaon Hagadol Rav Boruch Weissbaker shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Beis Matisyahu, Hagaon Hagadol Rav Moshe Barzovsky shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Slonim,
In representation of the Olam HaTorah here in the USA, we hereby address the Roshei Yeshivah and Torah leaders in Eretz Yisrael,
The bleak situation regarding the drafting of bnei yeshivah [into the IDF] has been brought to our attention by many roshei Yeshivah, specifically of the Sephardic community. Those who approached us supplied detailed explanations and examples regarding the enactment of new [harsh] laws, and the enforcement thereof. These [facts] have nothing to do with the sharp differences of opinion amongst the various chareidi factions in Eretz Yisrael.
We will detail several points, in short.
1. A grave danger looms, because within several years, the entire military deferment granted to yeshivah students will expire. [Even during the current so-called “transition period”, we see the conscription of many yeshivah students.] The clock is ticking, with no salvation in sight. It makes no sense to delay dealing with the crisis until the axe falls heavily upon us.
2. There is now a large quota that the chareidi community must fill [from our yeshivos], so that the remainder of yeshivah students can receive an exemption. This is just during the transition period. Soon enough, they fully intend to draft virtually all yeshivah students. [The very fact that they named this phase “the transition period” is a very clear indication of their ominous intent and plans.]
3. Thousands of talmidim are currently entangled in legal or bureaucratic messes [as we have verified]. For example, the new laws make it difficult for a talmid to earn verification that he is indeed a yeshivah student. These talmidim live in fear of being drafted, serving jail time, or any of the other threats made against them. [Some of us have seen the case-files of several of these boys. A group of Sephardic community leaders have compiled files containing roughly 1200 such bachurim.] True, with Hashem’s help, there are some new, helpful laws that ease the situation at the induction centers. They now allow talmidim to appear in large groups, give them only a minimal health screening, and so on. The overall chareidi community may have it easier than before in this particular regard. Yet, thousands of talmidim are getting entangled.
4. Currently, these bachurim have no one to turn to for help. Until recently, various askanim were able to assist, but that is no longer the case. The askanim simply have no solutions to deal with even a fraction of the constantly changing laws.We are all witness to the ever-tightening noose around the necks of those studying Torah. Each day, askanim throw up their hands in despair, giving up on tens of cases of bachurim in trouble with the law. These boys reported to the induction centers as required, and each found himself entangled in a mess for one reason or another.
5. Several roshei yeshivah have told us. that many bachurim have recently been enlisted in the army.These are boys, who would have never been enlisted, before the new laws and system were enacted,. Already, too many good bachurim from our ranks have been severed from us, serving in the army. Many of these new laws are aimed at denying bachurim their status as yeshivah students.
6. Many yeshivos and kollelim do not meet the new requirements to qualify as proper Torah institutions. All talmidim of these mosdos are now in danger of being drafted.
7. The government is placing intense pressure on yeshivos and their leaders to join forces with them. The government decides who constitutes a proper yeshivah student and what constitutes a proper kollel, worthy of a deferment.
8. There are government agents who stalk yeshivah students, convincing them to join the army. They prey especially on those most vulnerable and defenseless, such as boys from poverty stricken homes or weak family structures.
The above points have created a situation whereby many bnei Torah - particularly of Sephardic descent - who otherwise would be filling the batei midrash, are now enlisted in the army, as their ruchniyus is failing.
Another point we’d like to add, is that the newspapers and other avenues of publicity have not explained to talmidim how to best avoid these dangers. Talmidim should be trained how to proceed [when dealing with their army reporting]. They should also be aware of the great spiritual dangers involved, [should they become ensnared in the government’s traps].
About 3 years ago, when the crisis began, we were informed that negotiations were in progress between the chareidi community and the government, and that matters would straighten out, with Hashem’s help. We are certain that the askanim involved then did their very best. However, the facts are before us. It is Summer 5777, and there is no solution in sight. Large segments of the Torah world are being cut away. [ With Hashem’s help, the Torah world thrives, and It is possible that we don’t see any losses in the big and well-known yeshivos. Our worry is for all the other, smaller yeshivos, and their talmidim. Additionally, if any talmid experiences a short period of recession, he is at risk of getting snatched away then, and lost to us forever. The danger is immense.]
Therefore, we turn to you, the roshei yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael, to join forces and cry out as one that this cannot continue. Develop a strategy to combat the danger and to wage a battle to ensure the undisturbed continuity of the Torah world. With this in place, the Torah community will have the leverage and power to stop all this evil from befalling us. To the best of our understanding, this is not a matter that hinges on the various opinions… Everyone is obligated to rise and help. If there will be a cohesive group of the entire Israeli Torah world, primarily consisting of its roshei yeshivah and leaders, we – the Torah community here – will join you, thereby creating a unified cry of the entire international Torah world.
We ask of his honor to kindly answer us clearly, explaining your position and instructing us how you wish to proceed.
In representation of the American Torah world,we send this letter to the roshei yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael. Please have mercy on the collective neshamah of our nation. Unite and devise the best way to stand resilient as a fortification wall in this war. Now is not the time to focus on the differences of opinion there. Raise the Torah world to its full height and splendor until the time we merit an abundance of wisdom like the sea, speedily.
Those who write and sign with utmost respect,
in trepidation over the fate of the Torah world in Eretz Yisrael.
[Rav] Yaakov Perlow, [Rav] Aharon Feldman, [Rav] Meir Hershkowitz,
[Rav] Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, [Rav] Yaakov Horowitz
P.S. I wish to add a personal note. Just as I have been subservient to the guidance and leadership of Hagaon Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman in the past, so I remain now and in the future. Nonetheless, based on the testimony of trusted individuals, we realize that there is a genuine crisis regarding the army draft, particularly hitting the Sephardic yeshivos. We are raising the call that it is incumbent upon the Torah world and its spokesmen to devise and implement a proper strategy to deal with this.
[Rav] Yaakov Perlow.