Leaders of the Chabad Lubavitch movement signed off on a deal with the IDF which would exempt 15 percent of their yeshiva students from the draft, according to Mendy Reisel of Kol Rama.
According to the agreement, 15 percent of Chabad students will get a complete exemption from military service, so they can focus on being emissaries of Chabad. Chabad rabbis and the IDF will jointly vet the students who would receive this exemption.
The plan also allows for Chabad students to receive a two-year exemption to leave Israel, after they have studied six years in yeshiva. One of those years would be devoted to study at the “Kevutzah” seminary at 770, the Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. The second year would be devoted to studying for rabbinical ordination at a certified Chabad center or institute. (Chabad hassidim work toward rabbinical ordination before they get married, in accordance with the teachings of the Rebbe of Lubavitch.)
The change supports the Chabad tradition of studying for a year at 770 in Brooklyn when they turn 18. As of now, any 18 year old who is in a foreign country for more than 60 days automatically forfeits his Torah-study exemption, and is immediately drafted upon his return to Israel.
With the new two year exemption, Chabad students can return after their Brooklyn pilgrimage to continue studying in yeshiva, or draft into the IDF, as they wish.
At the age of 26, all Chabad yeshiva students, except for the exempted 15 percent, will draft into the IDF.
The decision will retroactively include some 300 “draft dodgers,” students who went on their pilgrimage, whose cases are currently being judged by the IDF.
Although the heads of the yeshivas in Tzfat (Safed), Migdal Ha’emek, and Kiryat Gat (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Vilshansky, Rabbi Yitzchak Goldberg, and Rabbi Moshe Havlin, respectively) all agreed on the deal, there are those who opposed it. Leading the no-deal camp is Rabbi Zalman Gofin of the Chabad yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, near Tel Aviv.
In a formal statement to Reisel, the participants in the agreement announced: “We look forward to and hope that every Chabad youth will continue to study until the age of 26. By that age…99 percent of the students will already be married, and the real problems of the military will be less difficult. Understandably, our purpose is that the draft should be to [the IDF haredi-track] ‘Shahar.’ It’s the lesser evil; the best agreement we could achieve – otherwise they would be drafting all the youths when they return from ‘Kevutzah,’ or they wouldn’t let them leave [for Brooklyn].”