Studies have shown that there are at least 60,000 men studying in yeshivas and kollelim – all of them exempt from army service. Does the Agudah Moetzes feel that all 60,000 are needed in the beis hamedrash in order to receive Divine protection? …Even those who aren’t learning that well… or even at all – in some cases? Because that is the status quo ante which they are saying should be untouched.
And how do they feel about hesder boys? Or Nachal Haredi? Should they all stop serving and return to the beis hamedrash full time?
There is certainly no clarification about any of this in that statement. It is simply a statement rejecting any change in the status of yeshiva and kollel Students because they are they ones who protect the world. Period – exclamation point! If one is enrolled in a yeshiva or kollel, that should automatically exempt him.
I do not understand that. I would understand it if they had said that only those who are sincere and study with diligence should be exempt. I would even agree that there should be a core student population that is exempt from army service. But I do not understand a blanket statement like the one the Agudah Moetzes has made.
Questions may be raised about how to qualify for exemption. The argument by the right is that there should be no quota of Haredi students requiring to serve… that all should be exempt. Why? Why should those who spend little time in the beis hamedrash be exempt, just because they show up for a few minutes every day… or even learn Torah for an hour or two and do something else with the rest of their time?
There ought to be a process of exempting yeshiva students. Not one set up but the army. But one set up by the rabbinic establishment themselves. Not every student who is in a yeshiva or kollel now ought to be there. How do we accomplish a fair system of exemption?
That’s easy. It’s called bechinos (tests). There ought to be a written final exam of every Yeshiva student in every beis hamedrash in Israel. Anyone receiving a C (70%) or lower grade ought to lose their exemption. Tests should be graded by independent examiners outside the institution in order to assure there is no bias.
Testing is something they ought to do anyway – even without a draft. There is a lot of government funding of Yeshiva students and some of them don’t deserve it. If someone isn’t learning Torah at a minimum level (70% retention rate) they ought to be doing something else. Torah is not their profession. They should go to the army and then get a job and support their families. And be koveah itim – establish fixed times for learning that do not interfere with their jobs.
I don’t know what kind of numbers this will produce. But my guess is that a lot of students will lose their exemptions and rightfully so.
One may say that all Haredim should share the burden. Perhaps. But I don’t expect the Agudah Moetzes to support such a view. On the other hand shouldn’t the Agudah Moetzes agree that at least those who don’t pass those bechinos be subject to a draft? And required to serve as long as their religious needs are met? Like those who currently serve in Nachal Charedi? I would certainly hope so… although we can’t know that from this statement. Very disappointed.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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