Walter G. Wasser

Haredi Community’s Role in Israel’s Defense

Recent events have highlighted the complex and often contentious issue of Israel’s security and the role different communities play in it. Agudath Israel of America’s support for President Joe Biden’s plan for a truce in Gaza, aimed at releasing hostages, has sparked significant discussion. While the release of hostages is undeniably a priority, the proposed truce raises broader concerns about the long-term security and peace prospects for Israel.

Balancing Immediate Relief with Long-term Security

While the immediate goal of releasing hostages is critical, it is essential to consider the long-term implications of such truces. There is a legitimate concern that frequent ceasefires may embolden terrorist groups, undermine Israel’s deterrence, and compromise the safety of its citizens. It is important for all stakeholders to weigh these risks carefully and seek a balanced approach that ensures both immediate relief and sustainable peace.

The Role of Media and Public Opinion

The publication of an article on Haaretz’s editorial page and its appearance today reflect the influence of media in shaping public opinion and policy. It is crucial for media representations to provide a comprehensive view of the challenges and solutions, avoiding simplistic narratives that might inadvertently weaken Israel’s defense posture​​.

Understanding the Larger Picture

The ongoing conflict with Hamas must be seen in the context of a broader, multifront struggle involving Iranian planning and potential nuclear threats. This situation underscores the need for a united and robust defense strategy. The Haredi community, with its significant population, has an essential role to play in this collective effort.

Current Political Climate

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent visit to Israel and the Middle East coincides with Benny Gantz, an opposition leader, leaving the government. Critics suggest that this timing hints at cooperation between Gantz and the Biden administration to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government amid ongoing conflict. Netanyahu’s strong stance against U.S. policies on Iran’s nuclear program and the Palestinian state garners broad support among Israelis. This political maneuvering adds another layer of complexity to the situation.

National Duty and Participation

Balancing commitments to both Torah study and serving in the Israeli army is a critical issue. Army service may not be antithetical to Torah observance. The Haredi community’s participation in national defense is vital, especially given its growing demographic significance. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are central to the nation’s security, and it is imperative that every capable individual contributes to this effort.

Reevaluating the Current Stance

Given the prolonged nature of the conflict and the increasing need for soldiers, it is time for the Haredi community to reconsider its stance on military service. Encouraging enlistment and supporting the IDF should be seen as both a national duty and a moral imperative. This shift is particularly important in light of the expansion of the Haredi population and the corresponding increase in potential soldiers.

Commitment to National Defense

To support Israel’s defense, it is crucial for Agudath Israel to advocate for policies that facilitate greater Haredi participation in the IDF. This includes supporting a universal draft, ensuring that yeshivas and their students contribute to national service, and raising funds to support troops. Such measures would help alleviate the burden on current IDF soldiers and their families and demonstrate a tangible commitment to Israel’s security.

Increasing Antisemitism and Aliyah Considerations

With increasing antisemitism in the United States, many U.S. Haredi families are seriously considering moving to Israel. A strong and secure Israel must be a priority for diaspora Haredim as well as for all Jews. Ensuring Israel’s safety and stability is not only a matter of national duty but also a critical aspect of providing a safe haven for Jews worldwide.

Moving Forward Together

In conclusion, it is essential for Agudath Israel to lead by example and encourage the Haredi public to take an active role in defending the homeland. By aligning prayers with honest commitments and actionable deeds, the community can collectively work towards a sustainable peace and a secure future for Israel. Utilizing talents and resources to address the existential challenges facing the nation, both externally and internally, will help build a united front in support of Israel.

Reference: “Opinion | Why a Gaza Hostage Deal Is Dividing Religious Jews About a Sacred Tenet of Judaism,” Avi Shafran June 9, 2024. Haaretz Article.

About the Author
The author is a specialist in nephrology and internal medicine and lives with his wife and family in Jerusalem.