By Hillel Fendel

The Jerusalem-based Kedem Auction House has put up for sale an original typed protocol of two meetings between the Council of Torah Sages and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and President Yitzchak Ben-Zvi, respectively. The meetings, which took place in the summer of 1953, dealt with the controversial topic of the drafting of women to national service (Sherut Leumi).

David Ben-Gurion in 1959
David Ben-Gurion in 1959

The rabbis who called on Ben-Gurion were among the most prominent of that generation: Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, Rabbi Meir Karelitz (brother of the Chazon Ish), and Rabbi Menachem Porush.

The protocol shows that Rabbi Frank opened the meeting by saying, “According to Jewish law, it is not permitted to draft women to the army or to any form of national service. We request that you nullify this idea. . . . We greatly fear that we will reach a situation, Heaven forfend, that [we will face the Divine consequence of] ‘your sons and daughters will be given over to another nation.’”

The protocol later notes, “Silence reigned in the room, and tears flowed from his eyes, and deep heartbreaking sighs were heard from the two great rabbis Meltzer and Karelitz.” Rabbi Frank, too, broke down in silent weeping at least at one point.

“In our great love for our Holy Land,” Rabbi Karelitz told Ben-Gurion, “we live in trembling and piercing fear to the depths of our soul that possibly, as a result of this law to draft women, we might face, Heaven forbid, the Torah’s warning, ‘lest the Land vomit you out in your defilement of her.’”

Though the rabbis and Ben-Gurion did not reach any agreement, Ben-Gurion said, “I sit before you in great awe, and I know that I must be careful with what I say, so that I not be as ‘one who teaches the law in front of his teachers.’ I am always sorry that I did not learn enough Torah, but I know to honor you and your prominence. I know your position and your status and your great influence.”

Despite these conciliatory words, the two sides did not reach any agreement on the issue. Ben-Gurion said that there are some rabbis who favor national service for women, but Rabbi Frank insisted, “The Knesset cannot determine Jewish Law.” At the end of the meeting, Ben-Gurion said, “I want you to know that I, too, know that we will not be saved by the sword. . . . I well know that we have emerged victorious in the merit of [the] spirit.”

The papers are said to be in “good condition,” with “creases and filing holes.” The auction was scheduled for Tuesday at Hechal Shlomo in the capital. (Arutz Sheva)

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