Haredi Rebels Use Posters To Push for Israeli Draft of Ultra-Orthodox

Undermining Authority With 'Pashkevils' in Black of Night

Rebels in the Dark: Ultra-Orthodox youths who support drafting Haredi youth into the Israeli military use traditional ‘pashkevil’ posters to make their point.
nathan jeffay
Rebels in the Dark: Ultra-Orthodox youths who support drafting Haredi youth into the Israeli military use traditional ‘pashkevil’ posters to make their point.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published March 18, 2013, issue of March 22, 2013.
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“The Jewish People needs us,” one of the notices declares, presenting army service as a mitzvah, or a religious commandment. Another notice simply has a picture of servicemen and a quote from the Mishna, which says that in times of a religiously sanctioned war, “everybody goes, even a groom from under his wedding canopy.” The only contact information is a mobile phone number, which the activists answer without revealing their identities.

The aim of Haredim for Jewish Unity is to pressure leading rabbis to come out in favor of army service and to start breaking the taboo on Haredim even considering service. Yehuda and his comrades hope to increase Haredi recruitment and even to make it a significant trend.

Their goals may seem ambitious, but they say that they are far more realistic than the mainstream politicians who live in their own dream world, believing they can bring about the change through legislation.

“The law is nothing unless there’s an agreement,” Yehuda said confidently. “Rabbis will escort [draft refusers] to prisons. One hundred percent, no question about it, they’ll be heroes.”

It is 1 a.m. by the time the activists reach their first neighborhood of the night, the Haredi stronghold of Zichron Moshe in central Jerusalem. They identify a pashkevil wall, stop the car and affix the posters. There is nobody around, so the posters may stay up until early morning before they are torn down, as they always are. But like wall messages on Facebook, a few hours is all it takes to have a strong impact. After the group’s last postering exchange in the winter, some eight people took the ultimate step of enlisting after getting in touch with the group, Yehuda reports.

Not all the stops are so simple. In the neighborhood of Geulah, the activists stick up posters, drive up a road to turn the car around, and by the time they return find angry Hasidic students from a nearby yeshiva tearing down the posters. Standing near the activists’ car, they express their objections, saying that this is Gur turf and they have no right to place the posters. The exchange is heated, but nothing compared with what comes later in the night.


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