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Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi’s revolt against IDF’s forced hiring, says his community will move abroad

TEL AVIV: Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef’s recent statement suggesting that Haredim community might leave the country if they were forcefully conscripted into the military.

He has strongly denounced the forced hiring by the Israel Defence Forces for war against Palestinians in Gaza.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid expressed on Sunday his concern about the challenges that members of the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim community might face in adjusting to life outside of Israel.

Lapid pointed out that if Haredim were to relocate abroad, they would encounter a stark reality: unlike in Israel, where a significant portion of the Haredi population doesn’t participate in the workforce, ultra-Orthodox communities abroad often rely on employment for sustenance.

He highlighted the statistic that only 55.8 percent of Israeli Haredi men are engaged in employment.

The issue of military enlistment is particularly sensitive among yeshiva students, who receive government allowances for their studies.

Many perceive integration into secular society as a threat to their religious identity and the continuity of their community. This sentiment led some to protest last week, asserting their willingness to sacrifice their lives rather than join the Israel Defense Forces.

Rabbi Yosef adamantly declared that Torah scholars should be exempt from military service under any circumstances. He warned that if yeshiva students were compelled to enlist, Haredim communities would consider leaving Israel altogether. He emphasized the indispensable role of Torah study institutions for the country’s prosperity.

In the midst of his critique of Rabbi Yosef and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which was founded by Yosef’s father, Lapid condemned the rabbi’s remarks as disrespectful to IDF soldiers who risk their lives for the nation’s defense.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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