It is a Friday afternoon in Yerushalayim, and I do not have much time to write and edit this piece. Nevertheless, since I received some requests from acquaintances to comment on the malicious and awful events yesterday of the Peleg Yerushalayim group, may their name be blotted out, I wanted to at least write something.
Readers of this blog know that I am very much for needed change in the Chareidi world, particularly in regard to their stance of total rejection of army service for any young man, no matter what up until now. While I believe that we very much need a cadre of special scholarly students who devote their lives to Torah only, surely times have changed greatly since the 1950s. Then, in the post Holocaust era, many Gedolim felt that all hands were needed on deck. Furthermore, the army was (in those days) actively trying to reeducate young men away from "Galut mentality" and religious observance; they argued that no young men should be allowed to enter the draft.
Fast forward 70+ years to our time. There are hundreds of thousands of Chareidi men of military age who are not serving, and then who cannot get meaningful lucrative employment. This in turn causes-- among other things -- a terrible economic model of poverty and reliance on charity and government largess which is clearly unsustainable.
All this is well known. If I had my druthers, many young Chareidi men would serve in the army, in special units where Kashrus, Shabbos, Teffilah, Torah learning are provided in a positive way, and only a minority be totally exempt. Many such efforts have taken place in the political realm.
But I write today not to discuss my druthers (whatever that means). Instead, the majority of Chareidi Gedolim, including most Roshei Yeshiva, the Degel haTorah party, and significantly the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, headed by Rav Aharon Shteinman and Rav Chaim Kanievsky, have agreed on a compromise, whereby all Yeshiva students should register with the Draft board, and they will then be entitled to a deferment until age 23, and probably more after that. Included in this deal is that all those older than 25 will receive a permanent exemption from service, and other advantages. (I will not go into all the details here, because it is not my point). Although non-Chareidi people feel that this deal is another sellout to the Chareidim and perpetuates their non-service, this path was agreed to by most of the Chareidi leaders, who are happy that this has taken the pressure off the draft issue.
Enter Shmuel Auerbach, son of Harav HaGaon Shlomo Zalman Auerbach זצוק"ל (a champion of love and peace who is surely turning over in his grave), and decided this is not good enough. He formed a breakaway party HaPeleg Hayerushalmi, which runs its own candidates for office competing with Degel HaTorah and which has its own yellow smear rag of a newspaper called HaPeles, and with ugly and depraved methods have time and again not only rejected the approach of the other Gedolim, but besmirched and slandered them, including Rav Shteinman and Kanievsky, in ugly and depraved terms.
I do not have the time or the stomach to document here all of this ugliness today.
I do mention it, however, in order to explain what happened yesterday, which was only the largest such outrageous travesty perpetrated by Peleg. In a concerted effort they called "A Day of Rage", the Ketanim who lead Peleg thought it was a good idea and a Kiddush Hashem to send thousands of young impressionable mostly teenage and twenty-something hotheads into the streets to essentially shut down traffic in Jerualem, Bet Shemesh, Bnai Brak, and Modiin, inconveniencing thousands of people, turning the vast majority of them into even greater opponents of Chareidim and what they stand for, and acheiving massive Chillul Hashem. It took hours to get anywhere, if one could at all, as they shut down the major arteries at the entry to Yerushalayim
I have no words to describe my contempt for the "Rabbinic" leaders of the Peleg, who -- in their unbelievable arrogance and shortsightedness -- have stood by and not only allowed but encouraged this desecration of G-d, including fighting police and army, while in turn often calling them murderers and Nazis for simply trying to move them out of the way of traffic. (The police, in my view, exercised great restraint -- I would not have been surprised if they had busted a few heads). The ugliness was horrible . . . and I fear greatly how much damage this has done to any efforts at outreach and presenting a positive view of Torah Judaism.
I only hope that people realize that although they are a group comprising several thousand supporters, they are a small minority of the Chareidi community, who are shocked and appalled at these actions, and are very angry saddened by it. It behooves anyone with the power to do so to stand strongly against this terrible group and their leaders, and for the restoration of Kovod HaTorah