The controversy over the drafting of yeshiva students in Israel has brought to the fore the unique dynamic that drives the Jewish state: the interplay between modern notions of democracy and the recognition that the Torah has sustained the Jewish people for thousands of years. There are those who believe all Israelis must share equally in the military defense of Israel while others say Torah study affords at least as much security as military service.
In many respects, The Jewish Press has long reflected this dynamic. Since its founding, The Jewish Press has striven to be a truly Torah-oriented newspaper, one that recognizes the centrality of Torah and Torah study to the Jewish people. Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, the paper’s founder, took the greatest pride in the fact that his Torah and halacha columns reached thousands of Jews over the years.
At the same time, The Jewish Press has never taken a back seat in recognizing the Hand of God in the restoration, after 2,000 years of exile and unrelenting persecution, of a sovereign Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael. We also take great pride in the enormous achievements of Israel in science and technology as well as its miraculous growth as a military power capable of deterring its many enemies.
So our thinking on the draft issue may differ from those who place themselves firmly in one camp or the other. We appreciate the manpower needs of the IDF. At the same time, we certainly recognize the divine imperative of Torah study. Our hope, therefore, is that more yeshiva students will opt for military service in the hesder yeshiva and Nahal Haredi programs.
Having said that, we understand those who question the wisdom of legislation that mandates military service for yeshiva students and thereby imposes a legally enforceable limit on an individual’s Torah study. And while we do not for a moment dismiss the fairness argument that all should share in the risks of war, many modern democracies have embraced the notion of religious study deferments, even at times of great peril.