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Monday, March 10, 2014 

All the anti-military Haredis did was protest against the Torah

A teacher writing in the Jerusalem Post tells the real story of what the Haredis protesting against army service were doing last week:
Those advocating exemptions for yeshiva students argue that the students provide “spiritual protection” through their study and repeat the canard that Jewish law prohibits them from serving in the IDF; that Torah and army service are incompatible.

They will tell you that last Sunday’s mass rally was in defense of the honor of the Torah.

But in reality, they are protesting against the Torah. The rally was a desecration of the Torah’s honor.

Jewish Law is clear that all citizens must participate in the war effort when we are engaged in a milhemet mitzvah, or “obligatory war,” defined by Maimonides as “assisting Israel from the hand of the enemy who comes up against them.” With a nuclear threat from Iran looming, political unrest in Syria, enemy states on our borders, and the constant threat of terrorism from within, anyone who is intellectually honest must admit that we find ourselves today embroiled in a national security situation that demands everyone’s help. No exceptions.

No exemptions

What’s missing is a sense of shared responsibility and shared destiny. The State of Israel was born by religious and non-religious alike, as Jews of every stripe and political or religious affiliation fought in Israel’s War of Independence. They had not the luxury to sit back and be sectarian. How things have changed. The exemption of some 400 yeshiva students during the early days of statehood has ballooned to over 40,000.

And while Israelis seldom agree on anything, all agree that the current situation has become untenable. Indignant and frustrated, most Israelis see the inequality of serving in the IDF while their haredi coreligionists benefit from exemptions. Moses’ words of rebuke of the Tribes of Reuven and Gad, “Shall your brothers go out to battle while you sit here?” (Numbers 32:6), resonate today with those who see the imbalance in the current situation.

But forcing a draft on the haredi community will not work. To think it will is to be naïve. We have seen the face of coercion, religious or otherwise, in the State of Israel and it is ugly.

Instead, what’s necessary is a change in culture; a reexamination of Jewish law and Jewish values.

The haredi community needs to accept and embrace their role and responsibility in the fate of the Jewish state. They must encourage their young people to balance their religious and civic duties. Even a minimal commitment of service would go far in changing public opinion.
Exactly. Have they ever explained how they can justify their defiance of Moses's argument that nobody should just sit on their hands? And why do they keep up the clan-like ghetto mentality replete with socialism? To make things worse, some insular Haredi rabbis are still making hateful speeches against religious Zionists, with the latest example being one Shimon Badani, at a Shas campaign for the corrupt Beit Shemesh mayor Moshe Abutbol. That kind of rhetoric doesn't help a bit.

The teacher writing the op-ed has a point about forced drafting, though. What can certainly be effective is cutting down on welfare and funding to yeshivas that encourage the disrespect for wider society. If the Knesset were to modify the laws to work on ideas like that, then we'd be getting somewhere.

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  • I'm Avi Green
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