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Friday, March 28, 2014 

A confirmation the IDF does offer Torah studies

An army official named Robert Stark speaks to the Haredi community, trying to make clear that what they supposedly don't think is available in the Israeli military really is there:
A military day starts like this: You are up before the sun, and those who want to pray are led away to a synagogue (found on any base, just a five-minute walk from your barracks) just in time for morning prayers. The army gives ample time for prayer (I never received less than 45 minutes for any prayer of the day), regardless whether any soldier requests the time or not.

Those who choose not to pray are forced to clean the barracks, bathrooms, etc. So if you were the type who wanted to pray, but didn’t want to wake up early in the mornings before work or school, your problems are solved, because you’ll have to be awake before the crack of dawn anyway. And what else do you have to do at that point? Essentially, people who didn’t pray in civilian life, pray in the army. The alternative is cleaning, and come on, nobody likes doing that.

In my current battalion, our battalion commander is a religious Jew. A commander of one of our three companies is a religious Jew. I often see them both in the synagogue where we pray every morning.

The building is large, but it still gets crowded so I don’t always notice those two specific people. That’s not really a problem though, because there are other religious commanders and officers there as well.

Hence, there can’t be too much slacking off from prayer.

The synagogue also contains an extensive library for religious study; the entire Talmud is a given.

The entire army, as a government institution, must observe all Jewish holidays and dietary laws. Hence, all the food is kosher and supervised by the rabbinate. If you are a vegetarian, or if you eat only Glatt Kosher, you will receive exactly that and the food, will be good. Honestly, I love the food, and those of you who know me will know just how picky I am about food! I knew someone in my last base who had an allergy to gluten (or so he said), so the army gave him a package of food at breakfast, lunch and dinner, all gluten free. And you know what? His packages were better than what the rest of us were eating! So you may feel inclined to tell the army that you have an allergy to some food or that you’ll only eat Glatt Kosher. I’ve thought about it.
Well there we have it, they do have plenty of equipment and such for prayer and study! Yet the Haredis balking at army service still have a problem with it?

However, there's a little something else that, while I realize he's saying it to assure the balkers they needn't worry,
Also, as a soldier in Kfir, I often interact with soldiers from the Netzach Yehuda battalion, otherwise known as “Nahal Haredi,” which is a battalion made to specifically meet the needs of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) tradition. In this battalion, you will not encounter any female soldiers. You will not encounter any female commanders.

You will not encounter any female instructors. You will not encounter any female officers. You will not encounter any female doctors/nurses, nor any female social workers. No females, period. You will not only have specific times for prayer, you’ll have specific times for Torah study.

You won’t merely be eating kosher, but Glatt Kosher.
Okay, the kosher stuff is fine, and again, it's great to have time for Torah study. But in all due honesty, should the guy be sounding as though the absence of female staff and the opposition to their involvement is something positive? Apart from running a "men's club", I'd say no, and they certainly shouldn't be acting as though any interaction with female army officials is the worst thing that could happen.

The article also tells something that dismays me:
Have I given enough examples? This is a Jewish army. This is the army of the Jewish state. Religion is priority number one (a few days ago we put boxes upon boxes of Korans into storage for Muslim soldiers) and Judaism is the character of the army itself. That is why it deeply hurts me when I hear about haredim claiming at big protests in front of New York City news cameras that Israel is persecuting religious people, and that the Israeli army will make them less religious.

This is nothing but paranoid slander.
Yes, the propaganda against the IDF in NYC was terrible. But in all due honesty, so is the willingness to give Muslim soldiers accommodations, because it could have a dangerous impact. It's good this was mentioned, if only because people deserve the right to know.

On a related note, Isi Leibler spoke about how the Haredi world's becoming more radicalized:
The polarization within the Jewish religious arena is sharply reflected both by the dramatic weakening of modern Orthodox streams and in the growing radicalization of the haredi world and empowerment of its most extreme elements.

I recollect nostalgically the Orthodox rabbis with whom I was acquainted in the Diaspora. With the exception of the Hungarian ultra-Orthodox who deliberately isolated themselves from the broader community and the fanatically anti-Zionist Satmar Hassidim, they were all committed to the communal welfare.

Ultra-Orthodox laymen included doctors, lawyers and businesspeople who ensured that besides a yeshiva education, their children also learned trades or studied in university. In a word, most of them participated in the broader community
.

In Israel during the early decades of the state, aside from small pockets of extremists, the Aguda and other ultra-Orthodox groups retained a respectful attitude to the state and its instrumentalities.

However, with the growth of haredi representation in the Knesset enabling them to tilt the balance of power, they succeeded in leveraging vast sums from successive governments for their education and housing.

Simultaneously, yeshiva rabbis, devoid of secular education and many with minimal interaction with society, strove to enroll as many yeshiva students as possible, irrespective of their abilities. Furthermore, they urged their followers to devote their lives toward full-time learning without earning a livelihood, and to rely on state welfare.

This approach has no precedent in Jewish life. Many of the rabbis debating in the Mishnah are actually identified by their profession, and Maimonides emphatically stated that “Whoever thinks he can study Torah and not work, and relies on charity, profanes God’s name.”
So why do the Haredis hang onto their MO and fail epically to heed the beliefs of Maimonides? I question their true dedication to Torah study, and come to think of it, their respect for God. In fact, there were some Haredi leaders who gave speeches recently that cited the Torah, but may have left God out of the proceedings! The very entity who gave us the templates for the Torah in the first place, like the 10 Commandments.
No halachic prohibition exists against serving in the army of Israel. Our bible is full of military campaigns and of personalities like Joshua and King David who personally led, fought and saved the Jewish people in battle. The sages tell us we are obliged to fight to defend ourselves (Milchemet Mitzvah).

Israelis, especially religious Zionists who take great pride in their army service, are outraged by the haredi claim that they are contributing to the defense of Israel by learning Torah and praying. The former, discredited, Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yonah Metzger even made the bizarre statement that “when yeshiva attendance is low, as on holiday evenings or prior to the Shabbat, more IDF soldiers are killed.”
Indeed, that is ludicrous to the max, and gives us the portrait of a man with no understanding that prayer alone does not a defense for human life make. God wanted us to prove our strength physically as much as spiritually, and Metzger goes along and makes crappy statements that help nobody? Ugh.
The government made every effort to achieve this change on a consensual level. The law shall only be implemented gradually over three years and will only apply at the age of 24. The principal vehicle to achieve this was financial, by reducing and even eliminating the state subsidies to yeshivot refusing to cooperate.

Unfortunately, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, in a populist stunt, succeeded in tabling a government proposal whereby criminal sanctions would be applied to those refusing to register. This was utterly impractical as under such circumstances, the prison system would collapse or be transformed into de-facto yeshivot.

However, the extremists cynically grabbed this opportunity to radicalize, unite and goad the entire haredi community into one of its ugliest confrontations with the state.

The language directed against the government was disgusting and profane, with some of the so called “gedolei hador,” or religious leaders of the generation, accusing the government of “imprisoning Jews for learning Torah” and comparing political leaders to Amalek and Nazis.

Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, widely regarded as the moderate “gadol hador” of the Lithuanian haredim, told government ministers that they should “go to hell and suffer and be totally annihilated... May their names and memories be blotted out.”

Contrast this vulgar language to the respectful disagreements recorded in the Mishnah to gauge the depths to which our “gedolim” have descended.
Yes, Lapid's act was incredibly dumb, and considering he's the one with the purse strings, I don't see why he had to do that. And for all we know, it could hurt his party in time. As for the Haredi leaders who resorted to vulgarity, this proves they don't have the courage to admit they resent the lessons in Proverbs.
The haredi rabbis are making a terrible mistake. Instead of cooperating with the government which is willing to be flexible and gradual in imposing changes, they are polarizing the situation and leading their followers into an abyss of ignorance and poverty. Their behavior is reminiscent of those rabbis in Europe who urged their followers not to leave on the eve of the Holocaust.

The power of the radical rabbis will only be reversed if we exercise people power. We must insist that a moderate Zionist rabbinical leadership take control of fundamental issues affecting all Jewish citizens. If the haredi-controlled chief rabbinate remains an obstacle, the modern Orthodox and national religious camp should set up its own independent rabbinate.

At the same time we must condemn “haredi bashing.”

So long as haredim do not impose their standards upon the whole nation and fulfill their civic responsibilities, they must be treated with respect and enabled to live their lifestyles which include many positive components which we could do well to emulate.
No argument there. Non-Haredis need to disassociate themselves from the Haredi leaderships and must also avoid alienating non-Orthodox movements like the Conservative sect, by refraining from saying their prayer customs are dirty in every way.

There's a lot of hard work that has to be done now to fix the damage Lapid could've avoided. I hope the current ruling can be modified soon.

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