There’s no question that Chareidi (ultra-Orthodox) society in Israel has a serious problem, and that Israeli society as a whole will have a serious problem because of the Chareidim.
But, the problem is not that most Chareidim don’t serve in the IDF. The problem is their minimal participation in the workforce, and the unsustainable growing financial burden that this is placing on both the Chareidi family and on the rest of the country.
Baruch Hashem, Chareidim have large Jewish families, but they are also the poorest sector in Israeli society (along with the Arabs).
The reason they are poor is both legal and societal. Most don’t want/can’t join the IDF (for a number of reasons, some valid, some not – and that isn’t the point of the discussion here).
But because they don’t serve, they also can’t work, as Israeli law doesn’t permit them to. So they are instead trapped in a situation they can’t get out of.
Unfortunately, many of those screaming the loudest for forced Chareidi inclusion in the army are not doing so in order that the Chareidim can join the workforce. They aren’t doing it for “equality” or “societal justice” (otherwise they’d be just as vocal and immediate about the Arabs and the Leftwing pacifists that don’t serve). And they aren’t doing it because it’s about what’s good for Israeli society.
Instead, they are doing it because they see this as way to attack Chareidi society in a way they hope will break down Chareidi walls and religion. And worse, some see this as a form of revenge on a group they hate. (Sound familiar?).
Meanwhile, in their own self-serving way, the Chareidi newspapers are reporting more and more stories about Chareidim who served (and are serving) who are being insulted and attacked on buses and public places for “not doing service”. They are reporting more stories about secular Israelis telling them how IDF integration will be their revenge.
Undoubtedly, the stories, while probably marginal, are true; but they just succeed in making the Chareidim entrench themselves even deeper against the assault.
It’s witch-hunt season again, but instead of Settlers, it’s Chareidim.
In one form, or another, the government is going to probably pass a law that will ultimately force Chareidim into the army. But like in Gush Katif, is the government addressing the real problem? Is the government prepared for the day after? Is the army prepared to handle so many Chareidim and their special requirements?
The answer is no, just like the government wasn’t prepared to handle the 10,000 homeless Settlers it stupidly created overnight.
And Israeli society certainly isn’t prepared for the time when the Chariedim will start to follow the path of the Settlers who now make up more than half the combat officers. They’ll start to complain about that too, how the Chareidim have stolen their army away from them.
There is no easy solution here, but the first step must be an honest explanation of the goals.
Social engineering is not a good short term goal. ‘Equality’ is not a good short term goal (especially when it isn’t being equally applied).
If the government wants to solve the real problem, perhaps the first thing it should do is tackle getting the Chareidim into the workforce immediately – without the army, while offering benefits to those who join, while only a few years from now start requiring a universal draft (or getting rid of the draft entirely and creating a professional army).
Not fair to those of us who have served or are serving?
Lots of things in life aren’t fair, but anyone who thinks you can suddenly force an entire society to turn on a dime is fooling themselves and looking for disaster. Once the Chareidim begin working, it will eventually follow that they will want to join the army too when they see the tax benefits they would be otherwise getting (for instance).
But the way things look to me right now – it just reminds me of the Gush Katif Expulsion– and many of the motivations and decisions that were behind that fiasco.
Ultimately not only were the targeted Settlers badly hurt, but a significant portion of the rest of the country has had to pay the price for that short-sighted (and underhanded) thinking.
The same here.
About the Author: Jameel blogs at the Muqata: http://www.muqata.com, but these days extensively posts on Facebook. Follow Jameel at https://www.facebook.com/Muqata Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.
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