Adam Gross

The Avoidable Tragedy of the Charedi Draft

On the one hand, I believe Charedim should perform military service. On the other, I deplore Charedi service being based on coercion.

As the High Court with its ruling today moves further down the path of coercion, it is very clear how this will play out, G-d forbid.

Much more time, money and attention will be spent on managing the resultant large-scale protests than the benefit that could emerge from drafting Charedim. Much more divisiveness and distraction will result from the politics of the Charedi draft at a time when the nation needs unity and focus more than ever before.

Nonetheless, there is no getting past the bloody-mindedness on all sides in this argument. Signs of compromise are few and meagre.

For those of us whose priority today is the unity of the Jewish people in the face of our enemies, we must redouble efforts to identify where the win-wins could exist on the issue of the Charedi draft that can avert the tragedy that will surely otherwise happen.

For me, the win-win could exist in the following area.

Until now, there has been an assumption that on any given day someone can either study Torah or perform military service, but not both.

This assumption has been integrated into the framework of Hesder Yeshivas through which religious zionists serve in the IDF. During their enrollment at Hesder Yeshivas, participants spend lengthy periods of time in the yeshiva studying Torah and other lengthy periods of time in the IDF performing military service. This is a good model, and I am fully supportive of it.

However Charedi needs are different for various reasons.

It should be possible that on any given day, the framework for Charedi service enables Charedim within their daily routine, in a suitable environment, to both study Torah and perform military service. 

This could be achieved by creating hybrid facilities which operate both as a yeshiva and also as a military base. It could involve staggered shifts so at that facility, at any given time, a third of the Charedi participants are studying Torah, a third performing military service, and a third taking rest.

Having purpose-built facilities would provide an opportunity to create an environment suitable for Charedim. Perhaps an institutional separation from the rest of the IDF can be created to address wider Charedi concerns about social integration and religious propriety.

Situating these purpose-built facilities in border regions would strengthen communities under the most strain at present time while focusing military service around modes of national defence which carry greatest Torah obligation. (See for example, Eruvin 45a.)

This idea may not be perfect. The design will need to be shaped by the Charedim themselves. It will require close coordination with the IDF and the Ministry of Defence. Some experimentation may be required to test what works and what doesn’t.

But it is now urgent that there is more flexibility, more creativeness and more innovation in tackling the deep-rooted challenges facing Israel today – to restore Jewish unity, to keep the focus on defeating our enemies, and to promote mutual respect among Israel’s tribes.

About the Author
Adam Gross is a strategist that specialises in solving complex problems in the international arena. Adam made aliyah with his family in 2019 to live in northern Israel.
Related Topics
Related Posts