If one could point out an issue that truly strikes a nerve in Israel, it is the Haredi draft into the Israeli army. What are the two sides fighting about? Who is right? Who is wrong?
I have a unique vantage point in this divisive issue, because I have been on both sides of the fence. I am a SWAT team (under the army) and border patrol officer, so I know what it means to serve in the security forces, but I am also a learned man who spent many years in the halls of yeshiva. In addition, I became religious in adulthood, so I also can understand the vantage of those without religion and those with.
The reality of this issue is both sides are right and both sides are wrong. How could that be? That is truth, truth is not what we think it is. It is only when someone has traveled in the others shoes, can they begin to understand the other side.
In any case of lack of unity, it is usually a combination of disinterest in the forementioned that contributes to the divide. Are we, the Jewish people, in need of unity? Yes, we are in desperate need of unity, we bury many Jews each year because we cannot achieve it, so unity is a matter of life and death. Let me explain.
The Torah has 613 mitzvot, and fighting and conquering the land, is the soul of the entire Torah (Rav Yerucham HaLevi, Daat Torah, Breishit), and, according to the Ramban in Sefer HaMitzvot, there is an obligation on every Jewish male to fight and contribute to the conquering and settling of the land of Israel, in every generation (see Sefer HaMitzvot — Fourth Addition of the Ramban to the Positive Mitzvot that the Rambam did not include “forgot”). There is no question that every Jewish male, no matter where he lives in the world, is obligated to fight. We are one people, with one set of laws, and every Jewish male is equal in the eyes of the law. There is one exception in Jewish law, when a Jew takes on himself to be a Torah scholar, where his Torah becomes his sole occupation and his Torah is needed for the generation. He will not leave the halls of the Beit Midresh for vacation, he studies year round, day and night, and is the “real deal” when it comes to Torah study. This exception, was not meant to be the rule. Certainly not in times of obligatory war, a war of survival, called milhemet mitzvah, a war in Israel for Israel’s survival.
What has happened today is a corruption of Torah. Today, in general, those who do not observe the mitzvot serve in the army, and those who do do not serve. This is the opposite of our heritage. This change started in Bavel (Babylonia) and continues to this day, exacerbated by the false messiah Shabbatai Tzvi. What would heal our nation, is en masse, those who do not know about Torah observance, being taken out of the army, and those that do serve in their place. Hilonim in yeshiva, and the yeshiva men into the army. Who is willing to trade places? Very few.
The leaders on both sides are holding onto division. It is well known that unity is beloved in the eyes of G-d, but obviously that concept has been misused and attempted to permit all sorts of prohibitions in Jewish law. Not everything goes in the name of unity.
The leaders of the secular side ask, who says my son should serve, while you rock yourself to sleep in an air conditioned Beit Midresh, while my son eats dirt under the warmest sun, ready to pass out in a tank? Do you ever think that with the constant war we face this absence can be healed? So, they are right. Shimon and Levi were called “ahei Dina” because they risked their lives to save Dina from Shechem, and the Torah applauded their actions and granted them the title of “brothers.” So, they are right, they are very right and there is no question, it is a terrible lacking on the Hareidim not to join the security forces. I did not state “army” because it is too complicated an issue, to make a blanket statement about.
The secular leaders are focused on every “unholy” aspect of society they can get their hands on, and making them available in abundant supply in the army. You want promiscuity? Join the army, most of the secular men are aware of the abundance of girls they will be meeting during their service, and are looking FORWARD to it. The Haredi men are not.. What about the disco and the drugs? Having been witness to bloodshot worn out eyes of a “nice guy” who shows up to work on the army base after an all-nighter in the disco? I can tell you, he does not want to be in the army. His life starts after he leaves base and ends when he arrives.
The situation on bases as far as religious men are concerned are terrible. Drugs, promiscuity, free abortions, women left and right (on the weekends), insufficient time for prayer, Bedoins and Druze causing Kashrut problems, serving can be a nightmare for a soldier who has Jewish pride and wants to keep Jewish tradition with the utmost pride.
What are the secular leaders doing about this? Forcing more women into combat units. Allowing non heterosexuals to serve, posting them on the army’s website for all to see. Allowing missionaries on base to preach, forcing soldiers into a church in the name of culture, forcing shaving of beards, you name it, is this the action of an army that wants to heal a nation and make it hospitable to Hareidim? Obviously not, its a slap in the face of Jewish tradition.
This is a burning issue and with Hareidim making up 27% of all children in first grade, and their population growth remaining constant, it will need to be solved. The answer is simple. Stop the obvious abuses of Jewish law and more and more Hareidim will join making a taboo into an accepted mitzva. Let the future of our people take part by not going out of your way to bring in non Jewish culture to a holy Jewish army.
That is not what the secular leadership has in mind. Its a war, one side vs the other. The secular are losing the war, and they are getting desperate. While they continue the onslaught, the backlash comes from the Hareidim, who burn tires and shut down streets in protest, even when someone who did not have to serve is arrested for not showing up and signing a paper for pushing off army service.
The answer is not just strictly Hareidi programs. It must be accompanied by a concerted effort of education on both sides of the aisle. A Hareidi Jew must be taught properly the incredible mitzva of fighting, and end the pacifism that has corrupted the Torah itself. A righteous man must pick up a gun and learn how to shoot, join the security forces in any way shape or form that he can. Take part in the essence of the Torah, and not use the Torah as a shield to not do mitzvot. The pitiful secular leadership of the army, the one that imprisons a soldier for killing a terrorist must be replaced, they are overconfident losers who keep losing their wars and our enemies get stronger every day. The war on terror is a fools game, and Israel is the fool. Haifa residents 80,000 burned out of their homes, an intifada that destroys the safety of every Jew walking the streets, the army does not know how to fight terror inside or outside of Israel anymore. Its foundations, are based on coexistence, withdrawals from areas already conquered and are flawed by not understanding the enemy or his resolve to destroy.
Going forward we will most likely see continued battles with the current leadership and the Hareidi men, this battle has been raged since the beginning of the state when Ben Gurion united the armed forces, it is not new.
Do we need unity? Yes. When we have soldiers who do not want to fight on the front lines, and the Jews who are burning with zeal and idealism sitting on the sidelines, its obvious we need change.
If I were leader of all the Hareidim, I would enlist them ALL, and have them unite and become one voice, one voice 60,000 strong, and enter the army en masse. The army would be forced to change, you can always grab the calf that strays from the herd, but try a head on collision with an entire herd. The power of unity can overcome.
Would either side choose to change we would unite our people, as this issue is the single most divisive issue our country faces. The war with our neighbors in Israel is a side show. This is the real war, the war of culture. We are fighting each other, and we are both losing. Unity is the answer. Hareidi Individuals can volunteer on bases, border patrol, police, swat team, and other ways. Until things change, let that become the norm, so that they know, all Jews are brothers, and those who observant will run to fulfill that which they have learned, in any way they can. Let that melt the stone heart of the ones who are trying to erase Jewish values and replace them, as Dina married Shimon upon being rescued, who with the help of Levi made the example for all of us to follow, when a Jew must fight, run to his side, and you will merit the title “Achim”, brothers.