The Israeli Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Israel’s Education Ministry can no can no longer transfer funds to yeshivas for students aged 18-20 if the students are eligible for IDF service but fail to enlist.
The ruling came in response to agitation by the anti-Haredi organization Hiddush, who wants Haredi men drafted immediately rather than allowing the Knesset time to craft new legislation. And naturally, they’re rejoicing over the win:
“The Supreme Court has made it clear to the Knesset that even its patience has a limit, and it will no longer allow hundreds of millions of shekels to flow to yeshivas in violation of the law,” declared Uri Regev, head of the Hiddush organization for religious freedom and former head of the Reform movement in Israel.
“Ever since the cancellation of the Tal Law one and a half years ago the state has been violating the law by not enlisting yeshiva students,” he explained, adding, “The government adds insult to injury by funding them.”
Well, perhaps. But on the other hand, a number of Haredi leaders have warned that the majority of their yeshiva students will go to jail rather than join the army. Which of course, helps no one and merely contributes to the climate of baseless hatred I wrote about on these pages previously that is the real danger to Israel.
Forcing conscription is no way to build an effective army and it does not serve Israel’s interests. And the justifiable resentment incurred by those whose children risk their lives while others are free to choose not to is also not healthy for society.
There’s a better way… and the first thing it calls for is an end to the fanning of the flames by people like Hiddush and their attempts to force matters and by the Haredi leaders insisting that their students won’t serve.
According to what I’ve observed, the Haredim’s opposition to military service is based on two things. First, the feeling that Torah study, prayer, scholarship and strict observance incur blessings for the state and are just as necessary as picking up a rifle to defend it. And second, that young men from the yeshiva environment who enlist are tossed into a secular environment they’re not prepared for, where their religious sensibilities are neither respected nor honored.
The solution is simple provided it is implemented with common sense and an absence of the kind of bile that’s been exhibited so far.
A meeting between the Haredi leaders and the government needs to be held forthwith. If I were Israel’s Prime Minister, it would be on my calender as soon as I could schedule it. Since the latest Court decision is a good example of which way the wind is blowing, it should be obvious to all parties that a fix that works for Israel’s benefit needs to be crafted, and quickly.
The solution? A negotiated amount of exemptions for Torah study and the formation of all Haredi units to reassure the Haredim that enlistment in the IDF is an honor, not a burden. And a guarantee that these units will be a place where their religious sensibilities will be respected. After all, Torah study and observance need not be curtailed merely because one is now a member of the Tzahal:
The idea of religiously motivated warriors is by no means a new one.The Haredim have their part to play in this, and it will be to their benefit and Israel’s to make accommodations to allow them to do so.