Michael Boyden

No More Free Lunches

The head of Yeshivat Kerem in Yavneh, Rabbi Mordecai Greenberg, wrote:
“Talmud sages should volunteer to work more than the average, and avoid indulging overmuch in the joys of life. By killing themselves in the tent of Torah they bring life to the entire nation.”

Every day we read the names and see the photographs of more of our soldiers who have been killed in the Gaza Strip. Add this to the thousands who have been wounded. I don’t see a single person studying in yeshivah among them.

If every yeshivah student were an illui (prodigy), there might be some justification for their exemption from military service, but just as the average Israeli doesn’t have the academic aptitude to become a doctoral student, most yeshivah students are not ge’onim (geniuses) even if they dress in black. They do little if anything to bring “life to the entire nation”.

Political parties of both the right and the left have been prepared to capitulate to political blackmail in order to form coalition governments with the haredim, but the game is over.

There are posters all over Israel proclaiming: “Together we shall win”, but we are not together. There are the givers and there are the takers. With the high birth rate in the haredi community, the number of takers is ever increasing. Not only are most of them not being conscripted or undertaking some form of national service, but a sizeable percentage of them don’t have the skills to earn a living and contribute to the economy.

October 7th was a watershed in Israel’s history. It not only revealed how misguided the concept was of what would bring security to our nation, but it also showed us that our armed forces were short of soldiers. We did not have enough people to provide adequate protection to the communities close to the Gaza Strip, the settlements on the West Bank and our towns and moshavim in the North. Meanwhile yeshivah and kollel students were “killing themselves in the tents of Torah”. Enough is enough!

When this war is over, our nation will have to undergo a radical re-think. There can be no more free lunches.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.