I Tried to Enroll My Atheist Son in the Israeli Army's Short Orthodox Track

Why should my son be punished for studying math and not Torah?

Religious Israel Defense Forces soldiers praying.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The following is a conversation between a representative of Meitav, the Israel Defense Forces unit that assigns army recruits to different positions, and reporter Nir Gontarz.

Meitav Service Center. For your information, full details can be found on the website and on the app “Being Inducted”… Please note, the conversations at the center are recorded for purposes of training and customer-service supervision. For a reply in the Hebrew language, press 1.

1.

Please enter ID number, followed by the hash mark… Meitav, hello, A. speaking, could you take me off the speaker?

Yes, Nir Gontarz speaking. I’m calling about the induction of my son this November.

First I need his ID.

[ID number]

Amir?

Yes, Amir. I’d like him to be drafted into a track like those in hesder yeshivas [a program that combines religious study with abbreviated military service].

He’s meant to study in the yeshiva, not be drafted.

Yeshiva students, because of the fact that they learn God’s Torah, get drafted for a really short time. Altogether a year and four [months]. And so I said to myself: Why should Amir serve three years, if a year and four is possible? Why should he serve longer just because he doesn’t believe in God?

That’s not how it is.

Explain.

The decision is up to the draftee.

Fine. Then he decides he wants a very short track. Like the hesder yeshivas, only without God.

Hold for a minute.

...

Thanks for waiting. You need to apply to the hesder [division], not to us.

They referred me to you.

But it’s not through us.

I’ve called all the numbers already, and they definitely all said it’s you.

I understand you. But call them. Hesder.

The operator there shouted at me and said it’s only you. It’s a call center that also deals with army reserve service, and she shouted at me and told me I needed to speak with you. She also said that without an IDF identity number, she couldn’t deal with it, and he doesn’t have a number yet.

You’re telling me that your son doesn’t believe in God and then you’re telling me that he wants to be in a hesder yeshiva?

No. You didn’t understand me. I didn’t say I want him to be in a hesder yeshiva. I said I want an abridged track for him, like in a hesder yeshiva.

No problem. You need to send a letter saying that he wants that.

He can't go study in a yeshiva.

I understand, but you have to send a personal request for him to be classified for the yeshiva tracks [of service], which don’t last long.

Why is there altogether an abridged track for people who believe in God and a long track for people who don’t believe in God? It’s punishment.

It’s not. Definitely not.

It sounds like punishment. Amir is studying history, and civics, and English, and mathematics. Those are no less important.

I didn’t say it’s not important. It’s just that people who believe in God – they have more things that they need. Such as, for example, more to study in a yeshiva. After all, full-time yeshiva students, what do they do? They defer the draft every year until they get an exemption. As far as they are concerned they aren’t drafted into the army, they just study. All day they study study study study. Do you understand?

No. Those are Haredim. But in any case, my son is also studying.

No problem. But he’s not studying Torah.

Right. But he’s studying other important things.

I understand, but people who study Torah – they need their time. It’s a law.

But people who study mathematics also need their time.

You don’t understand me.

Then explain it to me one more time. Verbally, I understand you. I just don’t understand the logic.

There is no logic in the army. You’ve already been in the army, right?

Yes.

There’s no logic in the army. We all know that. I was in the army, too, and to this day I think there’s no logic in the Israel Defense Forces.

Do you believe in God?

Yes.

I don’t. That doesn’t offend you. Right?

No. To each his own.

Terrific. So my son doesn’t believe in God, and let’s say he has a friend his age who does and he’s studying in a hesder yeshiva. So his friend comes to the army, serves a year and four, and goes on studying. And Amir doesn’t. He’s stuck in the army for three years, just because he doesn’t believe in God.

Hold for a minute, I’ll check what I can do for you.

...

I did check for you, and there’s no way I can help you. I understand what you’re getting at. It really isn’t fair that because he doesn’t study Torah he’s meant to be punished for that. Do you understand?

Sure I understand.

Well, you’re right, there’s no logic in the army. If you could apply elsewhere, I’d be really happy. I can’t help you with this. Even a senior colleague of mine said you should apply elsewhere. And if not, send a personal request – to be in tracks of a year and four. Write “Why should I be punished because I’m studying, but not Torah?”

But I’m right. Yes?

I told you. Yes. Right. But there’s no logic in the IDF.

All right, thanks.

Bye.