Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman came down hard last week on hareidi communities who continue to shame those who choose to enter the military.
In many cases, men in those communities who serve in the IDF are severely harassed for that choice. Sometimes they are threatened and sometimes even physically attacked. Sometimes their families are threatened and hounded as well.
Minister Liberman focused on the issue last Thursday during a Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony in the Kiryah military headquarters in Tel Aviv with hareidi soldiers and rabbis of the Nahal Hareidi Foundation, which provides hareidi religious soldiers with ongoing support during their tour of duty.
In his address, the defense minister attacked the phenomenon of shaming hareidi soldiers, calling it “idolatry,” and expressed hope there will one day be a hareidi chief of staff and pledged to fight “with all his might” against those who attempt to offend hareidi soldiers. The minister kindled the candles together with Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow, president of the Nahal hareidi Foundation.
“The start of every war is a breakthrough,” said Minister Liberman. “Once one person breaks through, everyone enters and follows him. You have truly made a breakthrough. There’s no other way to say it.
“The holiday of Chanukah is a miracle. When I look around this room, a great miracle occurred here, to see these people here as soldiers, perhaps the best soldiers.
Liberman went on to say that until he came to Israel on aliyah, he personally “never knew there was a contradiction between Torah learning and army service.” King David fought, he said, as did Joshua bin Nun. “I think they also had an understanding of Torah and Judaism, no less than Rabbis Deri and Litzman,” he said with some irony.
“You’re combining Judasim, defense of the homeland, and defense of the Jewish nation… Spiritual leaders of Israel always knew… when it was permissible for a Jew not only to learn, but also to fight,” he said.
Liberman added that he understood that for a Jew from the hareidi sector, the decision to serve isn’t a simple decision to make.
“I know how much we, to my regret, confront prejudices and how much we’re forced to fight unacceptable occurrences — all kinds of shaming, condemnations, and attempts to embarrass those serving in the IDF. This is simply unbelievable. Whoever in the name of Torah, attempts to denounce others, shames soldiers — he’s simply involved in idolatry,” he said.
“This is not Judaism. It’s definitely not identification with Jewish values, and it’s something that that we, as an army, will battle with all our might. We will not come to terms with it, and we won’t accept it. It’s not freedom of speech and it’s not just pranks — it’s simply damaging to Judaism and also to the holy of holies of the Jewish nation.”Hana Levi Julian