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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
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Charedi Suicide Squads

As his speech continued, it became clear that Rabbi Zicherman was not a man of understatements.

As his speech continued, it became clear that Rabbi Zicherman was not a man of understatements.
Photo Credit: Kikar Hashabbat

Not that I am surprised at this turn of events. But it still doesn’t make me any less disturbed by it. Yesterday there were demonstrations by hundreds (or possibly thousands) of Yeshiva students in Israel protesting the latest development in the draft issue. From the Jewish Press:

The provocation was a Supreme Court decision to block support grants to yeshiva students who haven’t registered to serve in the army. Another cause given was the arrest, a month ago, of one yeshiva student who had failed to register with the draft office.

I understand their angst. These are funds they have relied upon for decades in order to subsist. And suddenly the rug was pulled out from under them.

The arguments from the right opposing the draft of Charedim are many and furious. Mostly having to do with their perception that the Israeli government’s new policies on this issue are based on anti Semitism.

You read that correctly. They claim that the government of Israel’s hatred of Charedim is the same as the Nazi hatred of the Jews. I have seen more than one Charedi editorial in effect saying that if you take the anti Charedi statements made by some government officials, and replace the word Charedi with the word Jew, the Jewish media would be screaming anti Semitism.

Yes, Charedi leaders are angry. But I do not understand their inability see what this is really about. It is as if they have blinders on. They have never addressed the one justifiable claim that I cannot get past. The fact that by virtue of avoiding the draft, Charedim have zero chance of being put in harm’s way. This is unlike all other citizens of Israel, including Dati Leumi and religious Zionists. The retort has always been that most soldiers are not put in harm’s way… and that in any case Charedim are not needed – the army having more than enough manpower without them.

But that misses the point entirely. By leaving themselves out of the pool of recruits available for combat, they get to live. No Charedi mother ever has to worry if her son will come home in one piece… or come home in a box! All Israeli recruits are subject to possible combat or other dangerous missions. Charedim don’t have to worry about that.

Charedim claim that they provide service to the nation by simply studying Torah in the Beis HaMedrash. I agree that Torah study is a valuable enterprise of paramount importance. And that it is undervalued by the government. But at the same time I do not believe that every Charedi in the State of Israel ought to be exempt from service simply because he has a seat in a Beis HaMedrash somewhere.

Although I support anyone’s right to learn full time so for as long as he wishes as long as he is not a burden to society – even if he isn’t among the cream of the crop – I do not support all of them being permanently exempt from the draft. Only the ‘best and brightest ought to be.

Meanwhile the rabbis of the right keep screaming Gezeiras HaShmad. And the most strident among them say they will resist to the death any attempt to be inducted. Their fear is that compulsory army service will destroy the Charedi world as we know it. And worse – it will ruin the Yiddshkeit of the inductees. They point to statistics where soldiers from observant homes have either stopped being observant or have severely reduced levels of observance.

I’m sure they can point to numerous examples of this. But I do not accept that this will be the rule for sincerely devout Charedim that are inducted. Especially since the government has promised to accommodate their Charedi Chumros like having all male units. ( …a promise that they ought to be held accountable for.)

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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15 Responses to “Charedi Suicide Squads”

  1. Will secular students living on fellowships also lose their funding?

  2. I understand their angst… They might actually have to work and, God Forbid protect their country! Gasp!

  3. If they do not like or respect their country …. let them find someplace else to live….am tired of them acting like a bunch of idiots…with burning tires..throwing garbage, etc

  4. Judi Fradkin says:

    Every body in life has to play their part. My dad was in yeshiva and he was drafted during WWII. He didn’t want to go. Ain brayrah. My cousin died defending eretz yisroel. He was frum. We are related to some big rabbis. So? Defending the livs of the Jewish people is the most important thing. We need soldiers, doctored, engineers and rabbis. We don’t need parasites sitting around waiting fir others to do the heavy lifting. Shavuah tov.

  5. Wilma Sack says:

    Who cares. I spent time in their neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Most annoying people ever. They are and have been parasites on the Israeli people.

  6. Peter Baum says:

    This should win them friends in the country. And here. So much for Ahavas Yisroel.

  7. Harris Lubin says:

    If they do not want to serve their country, move to another country! I see nobody forcing you to stay!!

  8. Harris Lubin says:

    Judi, I could not have said it better myself!!!!

  9. Judi Fradkin says:

    Thank you Harris. I know this is a delicate issue. Having come from a family that has fought in IDF and US military. That family is also frum..in yeshivas……..but are also productive to society. Thank you again for the kind words.

  10. Johnny Stewart says:

    If a person stops their observance because of being away, particularly in the army protecting such rights of religious practice, were the observances truly based on absolute
    convictions.

  11. Judith Ross says:

    Let them get jobs. They should not be schnorring off the country that they don’t even recognize. Set them up in Upper Siberia!

  12. Rob Eskanos says:

    You are not allowed to kill or injure your self so how can you commit suicide. If you even threaten that you are a fraud and not a religious person. You should also live your life with no fear of person or government, Hashem wants you dead, you die, if he wants you in his army he will draft you like it or not! Welcome to Hashems Army! You will make us as ONE and victorious!

  13. Just who are the Jews willing to commit suicide rather than serve the nation that exists because of the death of 6 million? Will the rebbunim practice what they preach? I suggest that when faced with with death, they too will act as the Warsaw Ghetto fighters did and as many unsung heros in the death camps did. Stop the inane religiosity idiocy. Act like true religious men and defend their homes; their lands; not crawl into a shell and ask GOD to protect them.
    They haven't learned that one cannot serve GOD by hiding from the facts of life. In biblical times, men fought to protect their homes, their families. That fact seems to eluded the herediim.

  14. They need to find a balance of learning Torah and serving there homeland. They have to give back to the land that they live in and that has given every Jewish person so much. I know it must be frustrating as they want to learn and they feel this is their job. They have to be willing to give back as well do the other things they feel are important.

  15. Gary Harper says:

    An American Goy's perspective. Those who stay home, and live, will eventually displace those who go out, and die. But this will not stop incursions by enemies.

    Is there not to be a sword in every tent, for the defense of the entire nation? Seems I read that somewhere.

    There are plenty of things they can do while in the service other than direct combat. This needs to be considered. In the U.S., our naval support is 15 to one fighter, and in our air force, 31 support to one fighter (old statistics.) There is plenty of room for them in support roles. They can still serve that way.

    I might point out that many Americans resent our foreign aid to your country because a lot of your citizens study Torah all day, instead of having secular jobs like we who sent our money to you do. Study is important, but if the nation is attacked by its enemies, resistance is important, too. The proper study of Torah, from my Goy perspective, involves contributing to the physical as well as to the spiritual needs of your fellow citizens. God helps him who helps himself. Seems I read that somewhere, too.

    Study Torah AND help your fellow man. Be a whole person in the eyes of God. All of the patriarchs had secular work to do, and they were all favored. This is true service to God; by serving your fellow men.

    Eventually, you will have to leave the cave where you took refuge, and fight. It is inevitable, as long as you are surrounded by people who preach annihilate all Jews. Or the lions will come to seek you out there. The Islamists say to trust in God, AND tether your camel.

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