Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is mistaken. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is mistaken. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni is mistaken. And even Yair Lapid (the television personality now planning his own political party) is mistaken. They want to be nice, and have therefore affably proposed a futile solution to the evasion of military service by the ultra-Orthodox - either to join the Israel Defense Forces, or to do national (nonmilitary ) service. As if these are two equal assignments. As if they don't know that national service is nothing but a kind of evasion.
After all, it is impossible to compare someone who enlists for three difficult years - and has a good chance of serving in the Golani Brigade and endangering his body and risking his life - with someone who plays a game of "make belief" for one year, for a few hours a day, with vacations, religious holidays and rights, without being supervised or controlled, in an activity that is not really essential.
If we had real leaders, they would stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes and tell us the truth to our faces - that everyone has to serve in the army. With no exceptions. It is no longer possible to continue with the Haredi cowardice and evasion. It is not possible to continue with a situation in which only Haredi mothers are able to sleep well at night. Or, as Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said this week: "From a civilian and moral point of view, I am deeply and profoundly perplexed why all of the public does not have to participate in being exposed to sacrifice. This echoes the words of Moses: 'Will your brothers go to war while you sit here?'"
The answer to Rubinstein (and to Netanyahu, Barak, Livni and Lapid ) is clear. The ultra-Orthodox activists know it well. The Haredi public also understands. They know that Haredi activists deliver the most important goods to them - their lives. They know that military funerals never leave from Bnei Brak, that there are no Haredi wounded in Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, and no shell-shocked men in Ramat Beit Shemesh. From their point of view, let the secular donkey and the religious fool continue to sacrifice their lives in order to protect those who are better than others, the yeshiva students.
The entire idea of national service was born in sin five years ago, when the government, under Ehud Olmert, decided to extend the Tal Law [granting Haredi exemptions from the draft] by five years as Olmert tried to lessen the public pressure on him somewhat. It is a bad idea from every point of view.
First, an "administration" was set up with a director general and officials, and an expensive and unnecessary mechanism - accepted practice in the civil service. Then it was decided to pay the "volunteers" a higher wage than the soldiers serving in the army, because the volunteer is apparently more important than the soldier. And to ensure that the volunteer would feel really good, he was given all the rights of a demobilized soldier, including a grant on his release (from what? ) and tax benefits.
The volunteers themselves are employed by various NGOs, some of them Haredi, and no one is able to check to where the money really goes. After all, even income tax investigators are afraid of going into [the Haredi Jerusalem neighborhood of] Mea She'arim or Bnei Brak. Only a short while ago, we heard of fictitious yeshivas which register students who do not exist at all, and about Haredi youths who do "national service" inside the yeshivas themselves, as a form of "apprenticeship." When will the politicians reach the conclusion that the whole setup of this "national service" is merely a means of transferring additional billions to the Haredim?
There are also some naive people among us who dream that national service volunteers will work in hospitals, Magen David Adom or the firefighting services, thus helping the weak and save lives. Oh, what blessed naivety! They don't understand that what is needed in such places is professionals and not someone who will only get in the way. They also don't understand that this is a "gift that eats," since the volunteers cost more than their help is worth.
If there are some who take their work seriously, that is the biggest problem of all, because they will bring about the dismissal of regular workers who will no longer be needed.
Civilian national service must be stopped, and everyone must be forced to do military service. It is written, after all, in the Mishna that everyone must participate in a compulsory war ["milhemet mitzva"], "even a bridegroom from his room and a bride from under the wedding canopy." That is also the only way to achieve equality and to make Israeli society healthy. But that will only happen when all the Haredim enlist in the army and military funerals also leave from Bnei Brak and Mea She'arim.