Haredim Protest As IDF Indicts Rabbi Who’s Been AWOL for 5 Years


Photo Credit: Yehuda Haim/Flash90

Haredim clash with police during a protest over the jailing of accused defector Yehuda Tombek, December 8, 2019.

A severe indictment with the potential for prison time was filed against Rabbi Yehuda Tombek, who is defined by the IDF as a defector “who has been absent from service with the intention of not returning to military service,” Kikar Hashabbat reported on Sunday. The military indictment was filed against Tombek for being AWOL from the IDF for almost six years.

Hundreds of members of the Haredi Jerusalem faction demonstrated a week ago on Bar Ilan Street in Jerusalem against what they called “the criminal arrest of the exceptional scholar Rabbi Yehuda Tombek,” who had been arrested at Ben Gurion Airport while planning to leave for Poland. Protesters blocked the intersection of Bar Ilan and Ohaley Yosef streets, and 11 were arrested.


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Until this case, the indictments against yeshiva and kolel students who did not appear in their designated recruitment office have been filed under section 94 of the Military Jurisdiction Law, which deals with “unauthorized absence from service.” The Tombek indictment has been filed for the first time under section 92 of the same law, which deals with a deliberate defection, and calls for a more severe sentence of at least six months’ imprisonment.

The court hearing of the indictment against Tombek took place on Sunday, before three military judges. He was remanded to jail until December 17.

From the outset, the military prosecutor’s office demanded to extend Tombek’s remand until the end of the proceedings, but his attorney, Menachem Stauber, who works on behalf of the Committee to rescue the World of Torah, managed to limit his detention to only a month.

The defense now hopes to convince the military judges to give Tombek a relatively light sentence, given that his defection period took place when there was no new draft law following the repeal of the Tal Law, and because he has a little daughter at home and his family needs him. Attorney Stauber is known for getting rapid releases of defectors even in cases of prolonged defections.

The Tombeck entanglement is causing great anxiety in the Jerusalem Haredi faction, because there are hundreds of young men in a similar situation; all of them the original yeshiva students who obeyed the command of the late Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach six years ago, and have never shown up at the draft centers.

Following the arrest of Yehuda Tombek last week, the Jerusalem faction also took their protest to B’nei B’rak. They blocked streets, including Jabotinsky Road, which is a major traffic artery from Tel Aviv to Petah Tikva and Samaria. Police arrested 3 protesters who violated the public order.


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