Mr. Kobre’s assertion that the Charedi way of life will be automatically and fundamentally changed with such a law is patently false. It does not have to change. Deferments can be given to every draftee for purposes of study – university students and Yeshiva students alike. At some point in time they will all have to serve in some capacity. Yeshiva students who serve can if they choose return to the Beis HaMedrash full time after their service.
And just like exemptions are given in certain secular cases, so too can there be exemptions for certain Yeshiva students – the best and the brightest can continue to serve Klal Yisroel in their capacity as Lomdei Torah. But certainly those exemptions should not include every single Charedi Jew.
I am 100% convinced that a compromise can be reached that will satisfy all concerns. But Mr. Kobre does not assume that. He thinks it is ‘them versus us’ And the new ‘them’ are religious Jews who think that there is inequity in the system. Jews like me. And perhaps even Jews like Rabbi Dovid Landesman, a Charedi Rav who has also criticized the myopia of his own Charedi leadership.
No one says it is going to be easy. Restructuring the army to accommodate an enormous amount of Charedi recruits is a monumental task. I’m not sure how or when that is going to be done. It may take years to implement properly. But as a principle a universal draft must be upheld.
Arguments that Charedim are not really needed are completely beside the point. It is true that the army has gotten along fine without them till now. But that does not address the fairness issue.
Nor does the argument that the Lomdei Torah do as much if not more to provide security for the state. This argument will not wash to a grieving secular mother who lost her son in battle. Mr. Kobre is a highly intelligent man. Doesn’t he understand that? He has yet to explain what his answer to a grieving secular mother would be.
I think he owes all religious Jews who have differences of opinion with him on this issue an apology. We are not all the “Jewish anti-Semites’ he makes us out to be. We are not all disingenuous or displaying false piety when we say we support Torah learning. Certainly I am not. For many of us the inequity of service is an old problem that has long been festering beneath the surface and has now finally come to a head. Instead of painting us all as evil, he would do well to realize that, understand why, and give us some credit.
I will end with an excerpt from Rabbi Dovid Landesman’s guest post on this issue:
What right do I have to speak? I live here, [try] to earn a living here and, along with my sons, have served in the IDF. I would point out that I joined the IDF on the advice of my recently departed rosh yeshiva, who was a bona fide chareidi himself. He taught me that serving has nothing to do with supporting the medinah; if you live in a place you fulfill the obligations incumbent upon you; taxes, military service and contributing to the welfare of society. That said, and off my chest, let me make my point.
The essence of the problem is to somehow facilitate the entry of the chareidi world into Israel. Once that happens, the museum of authentic Judaism [the separatist kehillah created by R. Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld] will mainstream and “share the burden.” The olam ha-Torah is slowly evolving; Netzach Yehudah, the Shachar programs, the michlalot chareidiot, are all making a significant contribution toward this goal.
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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