What to do with the ‘ultras’

The trouble all began in 1948 when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion exempted ultra-Orthodox boys from serving in the military forces of our newly independent Homeland. We have been suffering his decision ever since.

It was premised on the understanding by the ultra-Orthodox leadership that the 18-year-old boys would not have to be drafted in order that they could continue their yeshivot education and one day fill the gap of Torah scholars decimated by the Holocaust.

Although Ben-Gurion was extremely secular, he agreed to the exemption.

And what have we gained from it?  We are sorely divided by a community of loyal Israeli men and women who, upon reaching the mandatory age of 18, report to their induction centers and serve our country with great pride, an inspiration to all of us.

Well…. Perhaps not all of us. The other community consists of thousands of “ultras” who give nothing to the State but receive all the benefits from the State. A few thousand of them do not even recognize the reality of the State of Israel, believing that a Jewish state cannot be, until the coming of the messiah. And he, the awaited messiah, has no plan to arrive in the near future. Somewhere in the past two thousand  years he has been delayed. Perhaps one of the wheels of his golden chariot got stuck in the mire of man’s cruelty to his fellow-man.

The yeshivot teach young Jewish men all the laws of the Torah, Talmud, and religious writings. They do not teach English, mathematics, history or science. They prepare young men to take their “rightful” places in synagogues and in the Orthodox community. They are not prepared to go out into the secular world to find jobs that will sustain them. Many live on doles and hand-outs from Jewish charities.

For the ultra-Orthodox, military service is a “sin” which would detract them from their religious environment, would introduce them to secular habits and cultures, and heaven forbid (poo-poo-poo), would bring them into contact with females who don’t wear long skirts, long-sleeved blouses and head scarves.

To be fair, there are handfuls of young ultra-Orthodox men who have defied the orders of the elders of their communities and who have voluntarily appeared at induction centers to join the IDF. They are enlisted in special units which conform to their religious needs and do not have to violate the Orthodox custom of shielding their eyes from gazing at women.

Oh, the compromises some need to make!

Religious soldiers earn wages, and upon release from 34 months of military service, are helped to find good jobs which pay good salaries, enabling them to enter a marriage with some financial security. They are entitled to government-paid insurance and health benefits.

The “ultras” also receive health benefits from a country which they do not recognize. It is a shame that they are entitled to some benefits for which they have never worked nor contributed anything to the welfare of the State. But our government is a humanitarian one, closes its eyes to their transgressions of the basic laws, and opens its hands to protect them.

Some of you may remember the tales of the foolish wise-men of Chelm. That is the model which our government has been following for decades. Do not pay taxes. Do not serve in the military. Do not learn the culture of the secular world in order to find work and sustenance. And for all these “do nots”, we, the tax-paying citizens of the State of Israel, the one the “ultras” do not recognize, continue to provide them with the benefits of the State.

Those who were born after our 1948 independence cannot remember the white-flags of surrender held high by the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem who voluntarily gave themselves up to the soldiers of the Jordanian Legion in preference to living in a Zionist state. And the ultra-Orthodox who prefer living under Abbas than Netanyahu.

There is a whole litany of acts of betrayal by these ultra-Orthodox Jews. But please bear in mind, they are not ever to be confused with the normative Orthodox Jewish section of our population.

The Orthodox serve in our military with honor and distinction. They hold high places in our courts and in our national parliament, the Knesset. They contribute 100% towards the welfare and betterment of our society.

Not so, however, the Orthodox with the “ultra” which precedes their religious status.

Give everything to loyal Orthodox. Give nothing to dis-loyal ultras.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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