As a firm believer in the importance of military service for our nation’s defense, the recent hypocrisy from the left has been infuriating. For years, they insisted that Charedim must serve in the army like any other citizen. Yet, “in the name of democracy” many of these very leftists have now announced a refusal to fulfill their duties in the reserves.
Growing up in a family with dozens of relatives who served in the army, I have always understood the need for each individual to contribute. Had I made aliyah, I would have enlisted in the army, like my many friends. I am involved in an amazing organization called Tzevet Paamon, which makes BBQs for chaylaim all over Israel. However, I also recognize and respect the Charedi community’s devotion to Torah study, believing it to be essential in safeguarding our nation.
I attended Charedi institutions my whole life, and was taught that it is Torah study that protects the army. Theoretically, those unable to study full time, should join the army. However, until the army is able to protect their religious rights, they will refuse. In the Jewish homeland, nobody should need to compromise on religion when enlisting in the army.
The leftists have long advocated for an inclusive and equal society. They argued that Charedim must serve in the army to ensure fairness and equal sharing of the burden. Today, those refusing to serve are being hailed as heroes. Contrast that to the mocking they directed at the Charedim for their principled stance. Sadly, all to often, the left makes it clear that their issue isn’t with the lack of charedim serving. The real issue is with the amount of Chareidm. Period.
Protests have become a common sight in Israel, including in the Charedi city of Bnei Brak. To celebrate the conclusion of the semester, students in a local Yeshiva stayed up all night learning Torah. When morning came, they went outside to dance together, singing about how great it is to toil in Torah study. Suddenly, money started to fall from the sky. The students continued dancing, letting the bills fall to the floor. Not one student stopped to grab the money. Why would they? As a former Yeshiva student I can attest that when in the midst of such a celebration, the joy is palpable. Money is nothing in comparison.
Someone threw it at them in an attempt to get footage of the greedy charedi students, running for money. Troupes about money hungry Jews are not new. Staged videos are not new (Palestinians often attempt to provoke soldiers to get footage). I almost cried when I saw the clip. A Jew, filled with such hatred for religion, that he forgot we are all part of the same “money hungry” nation. He is one of us, acting like one of them. Dozens of people stood there and watched, nobody stopped him. Did their army service not teach them anything?
At another recent protest a girl was walking past two female protestors. She shouted to them, we are all brothers and sisters (in an attempt to show her love). In response one of the women shouted back, “no, no, we are not sisters!” Is this what the army taught her?”
In contrast, when the protestors arrived in Bnei Brak, they were met not with counter protests, but with brotherly love. The “money hungry” charedim were all outside, handing out water bottles and refreshments. They asked for nothing in return. They may not serve in the army, but they do truly love each member of our nation. At some point the locals began playing the Friday evening song, “Shalom Aleichem” over the loudspeakers. By now, everyone has seen that one protestor who took off his bike helmet, and with tears streaming down his face, began to sing along. This is what their service in Yeshiva taught them.
After the passing of today’s bill, it was heartening to see a Charedi girl walking around with a garbage bag, cleaning up trash left behind by the protestors. It would appear that, either like our forefathers in Egypt they were rushed out of the protest at midnight, without any time for their garbage to rise into a can, or, these defenders of democracy are not also environmentalists. So much for tikkun olam (improving the world).
A fair democratic society demands fair treatment for all its members, regardless of their religious or political affiliations. Their disregard for such fundamental principles not only damages their credibility but also breeds mistrust and division within the country. Why would anyone want to join an army which they perceive as filled with people who hate them.
The left evading their own responsibilities also raises questions about the sincerity of their beliefs and commitment to a fair and equal society. When they recognize the importance of Torah study, and put in place guidelines ensuring Chareidim can serve without a single religious compromise, more will enlist. For now, their refusal to serve shows that when refusing because of something altruistic, like democracy, or religion, it is okay to refuse.
As Chareidim stand firm in their faith and principles, and the left confronts its own inconsistencies, may Israel find a harmonious path forward, where genuine service, mutual respect, and unwavering integrity help lead us to the final redemption.