Yair Lapid’s plans unite haredi leadership: Thursday evening saw a historical meeting in Bnei Brak that brought together leaders of the two sects forming the United Torah Judaism party- the Lituaninan Degel Hatorah (Flag of the Torah) and the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael.
The meeting was dubbed an “emergency meeting” and its topic was the “edicts” expected to garner a majority in the next Knesset to enlist the ultra-Orthadox in the IDF, the central tenet of a solution to the issue of equal share of the social burden.
It is very rare for leaders of both sects to come together, however, in the wake of the election results, the two sides have decided to unite in order to use every possible measure to halt the recruitment of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to IDF service.
The Council of Torah Sages, which is comprised of the religious leaders of both sects in the Ashkenazi Jewish Orthodoxy – the Hasidics and the Lithuanians – convened at a Vizhnitzer Hasidim Hotel in Bnei Brak.
The Degel Hatorah party’s spiritual leader, 98-year-old Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, headed the meeting; at his side were the chief rabbis of the Gur, Vizhnitzer and Belz sects.
At the end of the emergency conference, during which Torah studies were praised and IDF enlistment was cursed, the Council issued a joint statement: “(The Council) is shaken, scared and deeply depressed by the wave of incitement by the residents of Israel against the haredim.”
The Council also praised the ultra-Orthodox community’s political representatives, which it called “our representatives, the rabbi’s emissaries.”
“This is a special request for the heads of the government: Do not deviate, not even a bit, from the traditional treatment of Torah students or anything pertaining to the Jewish character of the country,” the statement read.
Israel Cohen, a Vizhnitzer follower and a journalist for the prominent haredi paper Kikar Hashabbat (Shabbat Square), said: “This is a historic meeting. Degel Hatoroah’s Council of High Torah Sages has not convened in 16 years. In a sense, it has been recreated today.
“I think this testifies to the significance of the hour at hand. More than 20 leaders of the Torah world sat together around a single table, all very elderly, to express their sadness at the edicts,” he said. “The height of the event was when Rabbi Shteinman wept; everyone understood.”
The meeting came in the wake of advances made in the coalition negotiations, specifically in the warming of relations between Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennet.
Sources within the Habayit Hayehudi party claim that there are agreements between Lapid and Bennett regarding the general idea of enlisting haredim.
All that remains to be done is to formulate a final proposal with Netanyahu, and during the last couple of days, the party has been holding a series of meetings toward this end.