Alessia Levi

Imagining the haredim in the army

Tons of words have been used (and abused) about the fairness of drafting yeshiva students into the army. So let us assume that in terms of the proportional distribution of civil rights and duties all these guys have to serve either in the army or in national service. Fair enough. But I wonder: Are Israelis ready to truly integrate this mass of people?

Imagine a new law had been approved and thousands of young yeshiva students started to take their place in military bases and offices. How do you think the secular population would react? Would they welcome them? Honestly, I doubt it. I do not believe the discrimination from both sides depends only upon the army issue. The discrimination depends on two extremely different lifestyles and mentalities and upon the absurd ignorance of both groups toward one another.

I would be totally in favor of drafting haredim if the rest of the army guaranteed to welcome and integrate them, and if the two parties made an effort to get to know one another and set aside their prejudices.

I think the time is not yet ripe for such a massive enlistment.

Furthermore, it would be problematic to have mixed units of ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews. The haredim need to receive guarantees in order to serve in the army, for things such as dispensations to pray three times a day, food with stringent kashrut supervision, and a separation from women. Can you imagine what these differences would provoke? Complaints. Complaints from male soldiers asking for time off three times a day. Complaints from the women soldiers about feeling segregated.

The enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox would be a very good thing if it helped to bridge the gap between these two separate worlds, besides being fair. Yet, an indiscriminate introduction of this class into the consolidated system of the Israeli army without the necessary arrangement would create even more hatred and frustration than what we have now. And the tension is already very high. It must be done in the right way and with full knowledge of the facts in order to lower social tension instead of raising them.

Creating separate, special units for the haredim could be a solution, but it would not solve the societal problem that threatens the very survival of this beleaguered country.

About the Author
Alessia Levi is a graduate student at the MA program in Government at IDC Herzlyiah and an intern at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs where she is researching anti-Semitism and anti-israelism in the Italian media and society.