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Why Did Ben Gurion Agree to Army Exemptions for Haredim?

Ben-Gurion would do anything to make sure that Menachem Begin's Herut Party would stay out of power.
David Ben-Gurion publicly pronounces the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel.

David Ben-Gurion publicly pronounces the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Photo Credit: Rudi Weissenstein

Today I was talking to a neighbor who told me that he’s in the middle of a book about IDF Chief Rabbi HaRav Shlomo Goren.  One of the things that surprised him was the good relationship between HaRAv Goren and Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, even though Ben-Gurion is known as being rather anti-religious.  Whenever HaRav Goren needed something, Ben-Gurion agreed.  My neighbor found that surprising.

That made me think.

One of the biggest issues in Israel today is whether or not to continue the draft exemption for full time yeshiva students. Historically, this was due to an agreement Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion had made with  the Chazon Ish, Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz.  My feeling about it has always been that Ben-Gurion did not want Hareidim in the IDF because he didn’t want a religious army.  Maybe Ben-Gurion’s acquiescence to the Hazon Ish and Rabbi Goren was for a different reason, and I’m not referring to the one mentioned on Israel Matzav:

As many of you know (because some of you have even met me there), I attend a weekly Torah class in Jerusalem. The rabbi who gives the class once told us that he met a man who knew someone who had asked David Ben Gurion why he allowed a religious education system to be created in the new state at all. Ben Gurion responded that he figured that within a generation, all attachment to traditional Judaism would die out anyway, so why fight with them. On this, as on many other matters, Ben Gurion was clearly wrong.

Ben-Gurion certainly wasn’t nice to the Revisionists, Jabotinsky, Menachem Begin, those who had fought for Israel’s independence with the Etzel and Lechi.  He had even sent the Palmach to shoot at the Jews on the Altalena, a horrendous act for sure.

Could Ben-Gurion’s agreement to defer/exempt Haredim, studying full-time in yeshivot from the IDF have been to get the political support and loyalty of the Haredi leadership?  Ben-Gurion would do anything to make sure that Menachem Begin’s Herut Party would stay out of power.

Well, what do you think?

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About the Author: Batya Medad blogs at Shiloh Musings.


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2 Responses to “Why Did Ben Gurion Agree to Army Exemptions for Haredim?”

  1. reminds us again and again how dirty politics is.

  2. reminds us again and again how dirty politics is.

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