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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Hmmm... Report claims R. Elyashiv zt"l and R. Ovadia Yosef signed off on Haredi IDF unit

The Haredi website Kikar Shabbat (link in Hebrew) is reporting on a claim by former IDF spokesman Avi Bnayahu that Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt"l (may the memory of the righteous be a blessing) and - l'havdil bein chayim l'chayim (differentiating between those who live in the World of Truth and those who live in this world) - and Rav Ovadia Yosef signed off on the creation of Nachal Haredi (the IDF's main Haredi unit) in 1999.

My loose translation follows:
In 1999, Bnayahu was an adviser to then Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai. He claims that Mordechai negotiated with the Haredim for a limited Haredi draft.

Bnayahu writes that among those present at the initial meeting were Mordechai, then-Shas leader Aryeh Deri, MK Meir Porush of United Torah Judaism and another Haredi MK whose name he does not recall. Also present were former aide to the Defense Minister Haim Yisrael, Nahal commander Yehuda Duvdevani, MK Sylvan Shalom (who was Deputy Defense Minister at the time) and Military Secretary Yaakov Amidror. The meeting was not even placed on the Defense Minister's official calendar.

The Haredi MK's insisted on secrecy because they were afraid that they would be lambasted by their constituents. Mordechai said he opposed recently departed-IDF Chief of Staff Ehud Barak's populist plans for a mass draft of the Haredim (Barak was allowed to join the Labor party immediately after he left the IDF around that time without the now de rigeur cooling off period, and he eventually defeated Netanyahu - who was Prime Minister then - in elections held in 1999).

According to Bnayahu, most of the meeting was spent discussing secrecy and the fear that the Haredi MK's would be seen departing from IDF headquarters.

Bnayahu reports that a week later, Mordechai held a meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Amnon-Lipkin Shahak, his deputy, Uzi Dayan, IDF personnel director Gidon Shefer and IDF planning director Shaul Mofaz. All were opposed to drafting Haredim.

When they left Mordechai's office, Duvdevani walked in and was ordered by Mordechai to travel to Jerusalem and meet with Rav Elyashiv and Rav Yosef, and to establish a Haredi unit with their blessing, because they would understand the need better than the MK's.

The next morning, Duvdevani reported that the rabbis agreed, but if that fact was disclosed, the unit would not be established.

A month later the Nachal Haredi was established, but Prime Minister Netanyahu was kept out of the loop to keep the coalition intact.

Bnayahu writes that he decided to disclose this now rather than wait until the government's 30-year secrecy rule expires, because the same issues are arising again today. 
One of the prime movers of the Nachal Haredi on the Haredi side prayed in the same synagogue that I did outside of Boston when we were in our 20's (he's about 6-8 years older than I am). He told me a slightly different story that I won't publish without his permission. But I can tell you for sure that the great rabbis of the generation whom the Haredi community follows did not oppose the establishment of Nachal Haredi.

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