The ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) sect has augmented the Jewish religion with a number of new commandments. Two of the most important ban acts of commission - "Do not earn your bread honorably", and "Do not serve in the Israel Defense Forces". These commandments do not originate with the Hazal (sages) or in the Torah - they are more important than those sources, since they were invented by rabbis of the present generation.
Studies have proved repeatedly that the Haredim are the most right-wing and anti-Arab group in Israel. Unfortunately for the Haredi public, at the very moment the government has embarked on a "determined path" to strike the goyim relentlessly, the shirking of duty by the Haredim is more pronounced than ever.
On the other hand, tragic events such as the terrorist attack last week at the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Immanuel in the West Bank, clearly show that the Haredim rarely if ever take part in defending their own places of residence.
There are three main reasons behind the struggle being waged by the Haredim with such fanaticism for the continuation of the deferral they receive in regard to military service. One of them is the official reason and hence the least important of the three - the Haredi belief that the prayers of children and Talmudic hair-splitting exercises by yeshiva students (and not reserve soldiers) are the true guardians of state security.
The factual basis for this argument is far from clear, and it's doubtful that the Haredim themselves take it seriously. During the last Passover holiday, at the time the IDF was carrying out Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank, the yeshiva students of Shas did in fact get a Tsav 8 - an emergency call-up order - from the movement's mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ("They will fight and you will be on holiday?" the rabbi asked).
In contrast, the Ashkenazi yeshivas moved up the return to studies by only two days. As a result, for much of its duration, Operation Defensive Shield was based only on Sephardi Torah study (emphasis on knowledge rather than hair splitting).
One of the main difficulties in finding a solution to the problem of drafting the yeshiva students is that any and every agreement given by the heads of the yeshivas to military service or national service of one kind or another, at one age or another, is likely to be construed as an admission that they do not actually believe in the legend that Talmudic studies constitute a spiritual shield for our forces, and also that they are well aware that the yeshiva students are simply draft dodgers.
That is the reason why the Haredi Nahal (paramilitary) battalion is intended only for yeshiva dropouts. It is for the same reason that the rabbis are ready to allow the yeshiva boys to spend their vacations hiking in the valleys of the Golan Heights but are unwilling to allow them to contribute two weeks a year to the Civil Guard.
It is also the reason why the agreement of part of the Haredi leadership to the recommendations of the Tal Commission is so revolutionary. The commission, which was headed by a former Supreme Court justice, Zvi Tal, recommended that at the age of 23 yeshiva students - all the students, not only the dropouts - should be able to take a year off to study or to work without being drafted. At the end of it, they will be able to do abbreviated military or civilian service, or return to the yeshiva. That recommendation is now enshrined in a bill that the Knesset is about to vote on.
The second and more important reason for the desire of the Haredim to leave the system of military service deferral intact is of course their wish to distance the young men from any possible encounter with their secular peers and the influence they are liable to exert on the Haredim.
The fear is not only of an encounter with female soldiers; no less grave is the encounter with the language of secular Israelis and with military slang, which they consider crude and abominable. Hence also the refusal of the Haredim to consider any solution based on a quota system. The Haredi public views the necessity to decide on a quota as a terrible "selection" between those who will remain pure and gentle and those who will be sent to do abhorrent deeds and will find themselves in danger of succumbing to apostasy.
The third reason is an intra-Haredi one. The Haredi leadership has not yet forgotten the period before the establishment of Israel, in which those who worked were considered to have high social status in the Haredi society, whereas the yeshiva students were thought to be a poor marriage prospect because they were unable to provide for their families honorably.
Since then the Haredi learning society has undergone an upheaval in which the yeshiva student has become the top of the social pyramid and thus also the best marriage match. From this point of view, the concern is that if Haredi men are permitted to serve in the army, and also to work, the social pyramid will again be inverted.
Therefore, the only security that the arrangement of service deferral provides is the security of the Haredi society against its possible dissolution, and the only shield it creates is one that prevents Haredim from losing their faith. It is the taxpayers, most of whom are secular, who pay for the fortified system of defense of the Haredi society.
The financing is transferred directly from the budget of the Religious Affairs Ministry, and indirectly in a host of ways, of which the most prominent if the large-families law, which stipulates benefits for families that have a large number of children.
Is the conclusion, then, that the recommendations of the Tal Commission are unjust? Undoubtedly. They are a severe injustice to those who serve in the army and they enshrine in law discrimination between blood and blood.
Is the right thing to do, therefore, to oppose the Tal Commission recommendations? On the contrary. To begin with, the law will ensure that at least some of the Haredim will do military service - partial service, true, but still a hundred percent more service than they are doing now. Second, the law will ensure that at least some of the Haredim enter the work force.
Without the law, the present situation will continue, in which the secular population pays in order to uphold the right of the Haredim, almost without exception, to shirk their duty to society and state.
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