War Would Corrupt Haredi Souls

The draft is harder to bear for the refined ultra-Orthodox than for people who thrill to living by the sword.

An instinct to pay taxes to the state is a rare thing for human beings. How many people volunteer more in taxes than they are required to pay?

On the other hand, some people have an instinct to fight. There is no lack of people who would volunteer for combat, or fight for the right to perform an adventurous task in the army. Moshe Dayan gave expression to this instinct when he said in an interview: “I know of nothing more exciting than war.”

Human beings are born with various instincts and urges, which are altered by culture and by insight. Political, community, educational and religious institutions have an influence as well.

Judaism parts ways with nationalism on this point. Judaism takes a stance against the war instinct and condemns it. Tractate Pesahim tells us: “Six things were taught about a horse: it loves to mate, it loves war, it is haughty, it hates sleep, it eats much and excretes little. Some say it also seeks to kill its master in war” (113b).

It seems that Moshe Dayan was familiar with this teaching about horses. He said of his soldiers, “It is better to fight with galloping horses that need to be reined in than to prod and urge oxen.” In Judaism, hatred of war is what puts human beings above animals. But for Dayan, war was what put horses above oxen.

The compulsory draft not only forces the ultra-Orthodox to bear the burden of the Zionist regime’s wars against all the land’s inhabitants. The draft also forces the Haredim to act as though they too were endowed with the same instinct to fight that is admired, for example, by amateur boxers such as Finance Minister Yair Lapid. What Dayan saw as an opportunity to gain worldwide fame as one who delivered a blow to multitudes is seen by refined people as being forced to corrupt their own souls.

How, then, can the imposition of a three-year term of military service on every citizen be seen as an act of equality when for one person, it is an opportunity to unleash his instincts, urges and desires, while for another it means being thrown into the talons of persecution? If you are in a financial situation similar to someone else, the shekel that is taken from you will be as painful for you as it is for him. But that is not true when it comes to taking away the freedom to refrain from participating in war: It is much more painful for one than for the other.

If the army were to be comprised of hired soldiers, no Haredi Jew, even the poorest of the poor, would ever join it. This is clear proof of how much harder the compulsory draft is for a Haredi Jew to bear than for someone who thrills to living by the sword.

The writer is a lecturer on legal negotiation and game theory.