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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

So you think you're going to draft the Haredim? (UPDATED)

As many of you know, the Tal law, which allowed Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshiva students to defer army service so long as they are in yeshiva, is due to be canceled on July 31, and a government panel is working on finding solutions. Many people assume that most of the Haredi yeshiva students will be drafted.
Eighty percent of haredim who are eligible for army service will be recruited to the IDF or to various national service frameworks in each recruitment cycle, while the remaining 20% will receive exemptions based on religious studies, according to the recommendations of a committee tasked with finding alternatives to the Tal Law and regulating the haredim's military service.

Minister Shaul Mofaz, who presented the Plesner Committee's recommendations during a meeting of his Kadima faction on Monday, said thousands of haredim will serve in non-military institutions such as Israel Police, the Israel Prison Service and the Fire Services.

The minister said the remaining 20% of ultra-Orthodox will be exempt from IDF or any other service in accordance with the "torato emunato (Torah is his profession)" arrangement.

The recommendations, which have yet to be published, have also been presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Many of you probably think those recommendations would be acceptable to the country's secular majority, but the Haredim might not be thrilled with them. You're wrong. Who's not pleased? Well, let's start with the women of the IDF.
Some 20 female officers, including high ranking reservists, sent a letter to the Plesner Committee, tasked with finding alternatives to Tal Law and regulating haredim's military service, warning that the mass recruitment of ultra-Orthodox soldiers will have an adverse effect on women serving in Israel's armed forces.

The letter, sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Deputy PM Shaul Mofaz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Committee Chairman MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), said that such a move would eventually increase the exclusion of women in the military and infringe on their rights.
Them there are gays. The IDF never even had a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. It didn't care what its soldiers did with their private lives so long as they didn't reveal IDF secrets on Twitter or Facebook. But now....
Asked by a Knesset Channel reporter whether he supported the IDF drafting gay civilians, Ariel said: “If I had to choose I would not draft them.” Ariel added that he believes homosexuality “distracts the army from its main task of fighting.”

“We must always ask ourselves whether or not we are acting in accordance with Jewish values and the Torah,” he said. “The Torah comes out against this phenomenon harshly and levels very heavy penalties [for homosexuality].”
While excluding women and gays might make IDF service more palatable for the Haredim, is that really what the IDF wants? Forget for a minute that 1,000 Haredim who subjected themselves to the draft last year were not drafted, and consider this from former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi:
Ashkenazi calls to abolish IDF compulsory draft. IDF should get first choice but then many (incl arabs) will do national service
I agree with abolishing the compulsory draft and have said so in the past. But why national service? So we can invent a bunch of meaningless jobs on which people can waste a year or two so that those who voluntarily sign up for the army don't feel like suckers? Sounds crazy to me.

But to come back to the Haredim for a minute. last night I drove two of them home from a wedding. One was native born, the other an immigrant from Russia. The native born assured us that there was no cause for concern - that Haredim would never be drafted. He claims that the most important part about being in an army is that you have to want to be there. Otherwise, you're an incompetent soldier and no one wants you. He has a point.


Two other things I forgot to mention. One is this piece containing the views of Rabbi Avichai Ronsky, the former chief rabbi of the IDF (who was forced out after the uber-Leftists went crazy over his Operation Cast Lead handouts).
Taking part in a panel discussion hosted by Haifa University on Sunday, former IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier-General Avichai Ronsky explained that he feels it will be very difficult for chareidim and secular soldiers to live side-by-side in a military environment. Ronsky cited two examples, kol isha at military ceremonies as well as the reality of meeting the kashrus standards of chareidim.

“Who needs the chareidim in the IDF? Who needs this headache? This will lead to major problems and there simply is no solution to this partnership”, Ronsky stated.

Ronsky added that if large numbers of chareidim enter the IDF, davka the chilonim will be in a panic for the chareidim already enlisting today are highly motivated. “If 60% of the chareidim are inducted the character of the military will change. The military will have a new look and reality and this is cause for concern among the secularists”.
The same piece also quotes Dov Halbertal, whom I mentioned previously here.
Rabbi Dov Halbertal, who was also taking part in the panel added “The debate surrounding the induction of chareidim is immoral – it is discriminatory and there are those who say the chareidim are not needed. There are those who state that many secularists also do not serve so why can’t we do the same? These statements are immoral and discriminatory.”

Rabbi Halbertal added the ongoing political process towards compelling chareidim to serve is “hypocritical”.

“Compromise is hypocritical and will not result in sharing the burden. Supervision over yeshivos will be an outright lie. There is a struggle between the two cultures taking place in the country and they are far apart and differences are major. There is no solution to this problem. The rest is all politics and immoral tinkering with the problem”.
I can't think of any other explanation for requiring national service from all those who don't serve in an economy where many working people can't make ends meet and all national service is going to do is drive labor costs down further.

And there's the army's treatment of its current Haredim, which really has to make you wonder whether they want Haredim to serve. I've been copied on another letter from the Organization for Observant Soldiers to the head of IDF personnel which says that the IDF has closed the Mehadrin (extra Kosher - the only food the Haredim will eat) kitchen at the Sirkin army base as of Monday, June 11 (story in Hebrew here).

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