The God Particle and 1,500 Prodigies

Nehemia Shtrasler
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Nehemia Shtrasler

Shas's Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias are holding their sides. They are watching the headline-grabbing war of insults, and threats to quit, between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, and can barely hold back from screaming, "Can't you see you're being taken for a ride, big time?"

They know that the arguments and noise around the Plesner Committee's recommendations are pretense. It's all a show for the media. The aim is to let Kadima present, at the end of a heroic struggle, "an honorable achievement" that will be for image purposes only, but will make it possible to remain in the government and bring in a few more cabinet ministers. In the field - you can rely on Yishai and Atias for this - not even one hair will flutter on the heads of the Haredim.

If that's the case, why are the two opposing the recommendations of the Plesner Committee so vehemently? Because they, too, have to play the game. They, too, have voters who expect thunder and lightning and they, too, want us to believe that a real struggle is taking place here over "sharing the burden equally."

But the truth is that the committee's recommendations don't lead to any equality or social justice. They go in precisely the opposite direction - to making draft dodging acceptable.

The committee speaks of the duty of the ultra-Orthodox to serve, but in fact this is a program to grant a legal and orderly exemption from military service to any Haredi who so wishes. The Haredi youth will have an option: to choose between the army and endangering his body and life, or to pretend to do that ridiculous, superfluous and wasteful national service.

Why not give this option to secular youth as well? Perhaps they, too, will prefer to wander around for a few hours in the Israel Police or in a nursery school rather than running across the hills with the Golani Brigade and risking their lives in battle?

The Haredi public understands exactly why it doesn't want to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces. It has nothing to do with considerations of "modesty" or kashrut. There are solutions for all of those. The Haredi youth simply wants to protect his own life. He is not interested even in the words of Moses about the tribes of Gad and Reuven: "Will your brothers go to war while you sit here?" He is also not interested in the teachings of the Mishna about a war of mitzvah: "Everyone goes, even the bridegroom from his room and the bride from under the wedding canopy."

The Haredi youth is grateful to the leaders of the community (the rabbis and Knesset members ) who spend their days and nights ensuring that funerals of soldiers will take place all over the country, but not in Bnei Brak, Ramat Beit Shemesh and Meah She'arim. The Haredi mothers are also grateful to those political activists. They want to go on sleeping soundly at night while those stupid Zionists risk their lives to protect their own sons who are studying in yeshiva.

To make matters even worse, the Plesner Committee recommends that Haredim serve two years while secular soldiers continue serving for three. Making the possibility of enlisting in the IDF a total joke, it stipulates that the Haredi youth can continue his religious studies until the age of 22 or 23, and only then have to decide. But by then he will be married and have four children and his motivation to leave a comfortable, safe life in the yeshiva will be close to zero.

Therefore no significant military service will come of this. There will merely be an unnecessary expansion of national service, which in general will turn into one big funnel for new state funds to the Haredim without anyone being able to supervise where the money is going to, and what the "volunteers" are actually doing.

But what annoyed me most in this festival of folly was the recommendation to totally exempt 1,500 "prodigies" every year from any kind of service.

Who are these "prodigies"? The ones who learn by heart and repeat time after time what has already been chewed up over hundreds of years in the Mishna and the Gemara. Unlike them, those who study physics, electronics, chemistry, medicine and computer sciences at the universities, at the Technion, at the Weizmann Institute, are just common types who don't deserve any kind of exemption.

They have to do full military service as well as reserve duty because what are they busy with, after all? They are just developing, discovering, inventing, saving lives, and also receiving Nobel Prizes, and participating in the research that this week discovered "the God particle" in the collider in Switzerland.

They are not "prodigies" - that title is reserved exclusively for those who memorize a page of Gemara.