Why My Haredi Friends and I Won’t Go to the Army

'Female IDF Soldier Shooting Practice' photo (c) 2008, Alex - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/A couple of years ago Jewish American blogger Jill asked me to write about haredim and army exemptions. Then in April, a young haredi man left an anonymous comment on that post. I like the way that he appears open about his reasons, even though he seems to realize that  some appear superficial.

This is an extremely contentious topic. Sometimes I fear that we are headed for a civil war. My intention is to provide a platform for honest, open and above all respectful dialogue on this topic. Haredim are part of a system that has been in place for decades, and it is not a simple thing to make changes.

Please keep this in mind if you choose to respond.

Here is the comment, with only minor edits for clarity:

I’m in a Chareidi yeshiva, and I think that mainstream Chareidi yeshiva-bochur opinion around me and my friends is:

I am glad to live in Israel and glad that it’s a Jewish state (it could be more Jewish but it’s not bad) and I’d be very happy, even honored, to protect our people by joining the army, in theory. There are just a few issues stopping me:

  1. The picture I get from my friends, my family and just about everyone is that religious standards in the army are not yet exactly appropriate for a Yeshiva bochur, vis-a-vis women, kashrus, negative influence from people around you, etc. I’ve heard that the IDF is trying to integrate chareidim but apparently it is far from the level required for the mainstream to join.
  2. As I am taught, learning Torah is very important, and I am glad to have the opportunity to spend many years in the beis hamidrash becoming a talmid chacham, and I also truly believe that it is in the country’s interest to let me do that, as I’ve been taught that our Torah is a just-as-necessary component in providing for our security.
  3. It’s not at all common in my circles to go to the army, so I will have no friends there, I will feel very different from the people there, people will look at me funny when I come back home, I will be considered part of a different ‘circle’ and it will be hard to rejoin my circle (including but not limited to for shidduchim and yeshivos).
  4. Stam, we weren’t raised to be combat soldiers like our brothers in dati-leumi and chiloni (national-religious and secular) circles, so it would be very hard and very unnatural for me to go the the army. Though I would have no problem doing non-combat duty.
  5. Therefore, for now, I will remain in the beis medrash, even though it means choosing a longer-term path (learning) which involves many sacrifices (lack of job opportunities, poverty, etc.).
  6. There’s nothing wrong with working, assuming that the worker is not ‘cut out’ for learning, and/or his financial situation does not allow for him to learn; I have many friends who will work in one way or another; I may too. But I’m glad that I am still learning.
  7. I wish that the army was a better option for chareidim; and secondly, I wish that it was easier for those who wish to enter the workforce; right now there are problems because most of us don’t do the army, don’t take bagruyot (matriculation exams), and also it is hard to find places to work that are suitable for chareidim, because the work culture in many places is very inappropriate, and also because people discriminate against chareidim by not hiring them or by paying them less.
  8. I know that there are people with more extreme views, but not much more extreme, and there are also people with more liberal views. (I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t want to protect that State because it should not exist, except for a couple of Neturei Karta meshuga’im.)

So, do you believe this represents mainstream thinking among haredim? If you believe that there should no longer be exemptions for studying in yeshiva, how would you respond to this young man’s concerns?

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Comments

  1. I live in a chareidi community and I think his views are pretty common with variations here and there. Israeli chariedi society has worked very hard to build up a certain kind of lifestyle that is centered on Torah learning, and army conscription would totally destroy that. Army conscription represents the destruction of the Great Chareidi Dream that young men should learn Torah for as long as they have the means and the desire. Perhaps something else workable could be created in it’s place, but that is uncertain.
    I don’t expect people to understand that, but perhaps they can imagine how any self-respecting society would resist externally imposed measures to undermine their core communal values. Their community would act no differently.

    • “Israeli chariedi society has worked very hard to build up a certain kind of lifestyle that is centered on Torah learning, and army conscription would totally destroy that.”

      Pardon me if I’m not at all sympathetic to that. What about being a useful member of the larger society that you’re a part of, namely the State of Israel? How selfish and cowardly to want to cling to your insular society and ignore the needs of your country. Why do MY husband and sons have to risk their lives while yours don’t? Not only are we supporting your lifestyle with our taxes, but we’re defending your lives as well. Do none of you have an ounce of shame over this? It’s infuriating, and something’s got to change or I agree with motherinisrael that we’re heading for a civil war.

      Garnel Ironheart’s comment below is spot on. I especially like the part about charedim learning on the Lebanon border. Yeah, right.

    • Shoshanna says:

      Actually, I think your views are more extreme than his. Most of his objections are pragmatic, while yours are ideological.

      “Israeli chariedi society has worked very hard to build up a certain kind of lifestyle that is centered on Torah learning, and army conscription would totally destroy that”

      Hesder boys also are part of a society that puts a high priority on Torah learning. But they serve. And the charedi commenter said he wishes army were easier for charedim, so he sees it as an option in theory, which you don’t seem to.

      “Young men should learn Torah as long as they have the means and the desire”

      If they are living off government welfare and community donations then they don’t have the means.

      “any self-respecting society would resist externally imposed measures to undermine their core communal values”

      The problem is that the this charedi attitude sees the requirement to enlist as an “externally imposed measure”. Compulsory national service is the law of the land in which they live. A country which most of them have no trouble accepting money from when it comes to government handouts. The rest of the country should not be seen as “outsiders”. If the charedim have trouble identifying themselves as Israeli citizens they are free to move elsewhere.

      • This is why I don’t usually get into these discussion online (and why very few charedim do). It’s hard for some people to accept that there are sectors of society that see the world in a fundamentally different way than you. They don’t agree with you on some issues and cannot be forced to agree with you. You have your certainty and they have their certainty. That is a fact. Why rage against it? How does that help anything?
        Work with reality, people! There is no way to force tens of thousands of people to serve in the army against their will. And why bother? It will probably destroy the army it’s supposed to “boost.”
        This whole argument seems to be about whether it’s possible to force chareidim to realize that their dearest-held beliefs are stupid. That’s not going to happen! But that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to continue to live together in a sustainable way (with a degree of harmony too).
        A quote I read in a NA pamphlet my husband brought home from a youth counseling course he’s taking: “As long as the ties that bind us together are stronger than those that tear us apart, we will continue.”
        This describes the mission of each of us Jewish people, today and always.

        • If the charedim lived in a bubble and their lifestyle choices didn’t affect the rest of the country, than I would be on board with your live and let live message. But the choice to sit for years of learning on end, without serving the country or supporting themselves, cannot be sustained anymore. Many charedim realize this themselves (which is why charedi technical colleges are so popular now and also why you see so many kol korehs denouncing secular education) and the rest of the country is waking up to the danger of the status quo as well.

          It was a fantasy world that couldn’t last and yes, it’s coming to an end, one way or another.

          • Abbi
            I’m agreeing with you that further education is on the rise among chareidim and this will hopefully lead to higher employment rates for those who want to get a job. For anyone looking to support these efforts in a positive way, I can give you some ideas.
            As far as I know, leading charedi rabbis have lent their support to these programs, including Rav Aharon Leib Steinman. Denouncements of secular education are usually related to attempts to force schools to change their curriculum.

          • Abbi,
            I think your point is extreme and pardon me not practicable but instead wholly emotional. First – learning Torah and payer is service, that is why it is called “avoda” it is the best protection there is. After seeing so many miracles happen here in Israel, how Hashem protects his children who can doubt that this protection can not be due to the simple physical reasons. It is the Torah learning of so many that protects us all, regardless of how we feel about it.
            Second – you seem to have just one argument for forcing haredim into the army – if my kids got to do it, then her kids got to do it. I got a question for you are your kids ready to sit and learn in the yeshiva for years to come. Even after they get married, even if the money becomes a real problem, even if this means that not only luxuries, but necessities will be in short supply? No time for computers, no money for gadgets e.t.c. If your boys are willing to learn – than they should have this opportunity, then it is unfair to deny it to them, otherwise your argument simply becomes selfish.
            Third – yes “haredi mentality” is a real thing. Most of these boys can not become “proper solders” without braking what makes them “haredim”. They do not have the secular knowledge and there are plenty of boys who can not do more than swing a broom without haredim. And with the way army treats them…. well let us just remember the last “ladies singing” debacle. About 8 years ago I had as guest for Tishrey a young man, who have just got out of the army. Most of the Israelis (comparing to Americans), but this one looked emaciated! When he became ill I insisted on taking him to the doctor. Diagnosis – very severe malnutrition. Apparently his commander in the army decided to teach him a lesson – no food with “fancy” kashrut, for just one solder, this was also a shemita year, and there was a problem with any food on Shabbos. This man complained and the answer was that the decision of his commander stood. So he starved. For over a year, until this man became so sick that he had to be discharged. No scandal over it. No complains. Severe and permanent disability as a consequence. And severe psychological trauma.
            Why did the army need him? No reason at all.

        • “It’s hard for some people to accept that there are sectors of society that see the world in a fundamentally different way than you. They don’t agree with you on some issues and cannot be forced to agree with you.”

          I couldn’t care less if you see the world different than I do or don’t agree with me. As long as you do your fair share in serving the country, it doesn’t matter what you believe. EVERYONE should serve NO MATTER WHAT KIND of Jew they are. The army is not there to make sure everyone is comfortable and that their every whim is catered to. YOU are supposed to adjust to army life, not the other way around. I find the charedi attitude regarding the army repulsive.

          • Jennie,
            All I can say is that Israeli society is apparently more complicated than you realize. It’s not exactly like every Jewish Israeli is gladly joining the army, except the Chareidim. There are various sectors where people commonly avoid service and there are layers of complex issues that cause this.
            In an ideal world maybe what you say would be true. In reality, there are deep divisions in our society that pre-date the creation of the IDF by several decades.
            I’m going to skip an extended reply and leave it at that.

        • Naomi
          I accept that the Haredi worldview and mine are different perhaps maybe even diametrically opposed. but
          My taxes pay for haredi police, and fire protection
          My taxes are higher relatively so their arnona can be lower
          and my bituach leumi is higher so the haredi bituach leumit can be lower.
          Dont get me started on interest rates and cost of housing in haredi built for subdivisions.

          So yes they are living on my dime and i am opposed to it

          they need to get up and get jobs and start to contribute.

          Full disclosure – i dont need haredim in the army (or arabs for that matter) but they both need to perform some sort of national service for 2-3 years if they want to do the army so be it but they need to serve and then get jobs and stay off the dole and start paying their fair share

          • Arthur,
            I fully agree that the problem of chareidi poverty and underemployment needs to be dealt with. In fact I volunteer my time in this area in my community and I’m aware of quite a few good programs that are slowly having an impact.
            I’m not sure what your comment has to do with this post, which is about IDF service, except perhaps the fact that the conscription laws are one of the big road-blocks keeping chareidi men out of further education and the mainstream work place. As you are probably aware, a young chareidi man who has not served in the army cannot get a real job and therefore cannot pay income taxes.

  2. Yair Spolter says:

    Thank you for posting this.
    I can tell you without a doubt that these points represent the mainstream haredi attitude, the 99%.
    #s 1 and 2 are the primary reason for haredim opposing army service. There is no ideological opposition to fighting to defend Jews (or working for that matter).
    Unfortunately, there are many out there with agendas who create inaccurate stereotypes and drive wedges between Jewish groups. There is a battle raging since the inception of the State over the character of Medinat Yisrael – religous, secular, or somewhere in between. This issue hits at the core of the battle, and therefore emotions are high. But when it comes down to it – when you look at the people as people, there is a lot more that we agree on than the media will have you believe.
    This post is a +1 for the achdus that we all – haredim included – are yearning for.

    An afterthought: Another important point that the “commenter” mentions is that haredim who don’t serve in the army are choosing the more difficult path. Living a life in yeshiva/kollel without a plan for how to earn a living or an ability (legally) to enter the work force is a huge sacrifice that haredim make for the sake of what they consider to be of prime importance. Agree or disagree with the value system, there is no arguing that they do not have it easy. It would be much easier to go down the “normal” path, join the army – attend university – get a nice job. Labels such as “lazy” or “draft-dodgers” completely miss the point and turn an intelligent discussion into meaningless ramble and name-calling.

    • ” It would be much easier to go down the “normal” path, join the army – attend university – get a nice job. ”

      Sure, if there was no social and family pressure to conform to the path laid out for them. It is not easier to do what is expected of you by your family, friends and religious authorities than the general society.

    • “It would be much easier to go down the “normal” path, join the army – attend university – get a nice job.”

      Have you ever prepared for a make or break exam?

      You have no idea how hard it is – very hard. In fact, harder, because you could work hard and still not succeed financially. Much harder tests of emunah.

  3. I have heard this all before. The problem is that they have rehearsed the excuses very well. this whole list any chareidi can recite by heart. But not a single page of gemara. I am tired of the scam. So are a lot of other Jews. like one na nach said to me: you can scam people only for so long until they start to catch on.

  4. This would all apply before Nachal Charedi. But now that there is a Nachal Charedi with Mehadrin food, limited contact with women and time to daven and even learn, I think, it doesn’t wash.

    From the Nachal Charedi website:

    MISSION STATEMENT

    • To provide for the unique spiritual needs of Haredi youth, while also enabling them to participate in the defense of Israel.
    • To provide these young men with the educational and professional qualifications needed to achieve economic independence.
    • To provide the Haredi community with a unique opportunity to share the nation’s military burden as well as bridging the social gap between the secular and religious populations in Israel.

    • Observer says:

      Abbi, Nachal Chareidi does not even begin to deal with the issues. It takes time to build up a new and different way of looking at an institution like the IDF. This was finally beginning to happen though, when certain people at the top echelons decided to pull the rug out from under people’s feet. They started breaking promises all over the place, and requiring things that ranged from outright halachik problems to things that were clearly inappropriate (and seemed designed to humiliate the Nachal soldiers.) Things got so bad that Rabbi Moshe Raved, the Chief Rabbi of the IAF, and the Rabbi that was overseeing the program, resigned.

      And, they also limit the number of participants in the unit.

      There have been similar issues recently with the Hesder units, which have proved their worth time and time again.

      With that reality, you simply cannot claim that this constitutes a reasonable accommodation for Chareidi young men.

      • Sorry Observer, I don’t buy your excuses. The Hesder yeshivas worked out an equitable solution to the problem learning and army service and a solution for the charedim could have been worked out if the charedim came to the table in good faith, which I highly doubt they did. This is just propaganda.

        The Nachal Charedi is a perfectly fine solution, no chilul shabbat is required, you know it and I know it. On top of the fact that there are tons of jobnik and sherut leumi jobs that could be created that wouldn’t require chillul shabbat. The askanim who control the gedolim will simply never allow it to become an acceptable norm. This has nothing to do with rugs or feet.

        • Observer says:

          Firstly, the Hesder Yeshivos are a very different thing than the Nachal Chareidi. Secondly, there have been recent problems with Hesder as well – so bad that some of the RY’s that had been (actively) sending their students to this program have been talking about totally pulling out of the program.

          Chilul Shabbos is not the only issue involved (although that’s nothing to sneeze at.)

          The fact that you claim that there have been no problems with Nachal Chareidi, and that it’s all a matter of Chareidim not being honest, while totally ignoring the documented problems speaks volumes. As long as people like you have that attitude, you will never get the Chareidi population on board. You have showed that there is a total lack of respect, and you have made it clear that the decision makers can renege on any and all promises with no repercussions.

          • I have showed a lack of respect? My husband served in the army for 13 years and was shomer shabbes throughout, so you can sit and sit and learn and make fun of the frei dati leumi. I think it is you and the population you represent that is completely lacking in respect.

      • Nachal Chareidi does not even begin to deal with the issues.

        Especially when new issues are constantly created as the old issues are solved.

        • Observer says:

          True – when people (ie Army decision makers, in this case) start reneging on promises and face no repercussions, there are going to be constant problems. You simply cannot solve problems when the people on one side have no incentive and no desire to keep clear and concrete commitments. (The recruits in the army have ARE keeping their commitments.)

  5. > The picture I get from my friends, my family and just about everyone is that religious standards in the army are not yet exactly appropriate for a Yeshiva bochur

    Army service isn’t about you. It’s about the country. A boy who goes to the army has to compromise. That’s called being a useful part of society. And the more Chareidim who go to the army, the more the army will provide the “appropriate” environment.

    > As I am taught, learning Torah is very important, and I am glad to have the opportunity to spend many years in the beis hamidrash becoming a talmid chacham,

    Working for a living is important and, until the Chazon Ish invented the idea of “learn, not earn” was part of the daily life of the average Chareidi, as was participating in the needs of the greater community. Don’t you want to be like your ancestors?

    > and I also truly believe that it is in the country’s interest to let me do that, as I’ve been taught that our Torah is a just-as-necessary component in providing for our security.

    Then go study Torah in an army base on the border with Lebanon, please.

    > It’s not at all common in my circles to go to the army, so I will have no friends there

    The words “Oh, boo hoo” come to mind. The whole point of universal conscription is to bring different elements of society together and teach them to cooperate and learn about each other. Part of the process means making new friends.

    > I will be considered part of a different ‘circle’ and it will be hard to rejoin my circle (including but not limited to for shidduchim and yeshivos).

    So your friends are judgmental and will only like you under certain conditions. Buddy, they’re not your friends if that’s the way they are.

    > Stam, we weren’t raised to be combat soldiers like our brothers in dati-leumi and chiloni (national-religious and secular) circles,

    I’m sorry but this is the stupidest statement so far. No one raises their child to be a soldier. No one thinks it’s the greatest thing on Earth. The DL and chilonim accept that it’s a part of growing up, that’s all.

    > Therefore, for now, I will remain in the beis medrash, even though it means choosing a longer-term path (learning) which involves many sacrifices (lack of job opportunities, poverty, etc.).

    Phrase it this way: you will remain in the beis medrash even though it means the Israeli taxpayer will continue to support you and defend you at the same time.

    > I wish that the army was a better option for chareidim;

    When you refuse to compromise one iota and demand that everyone else do things your way or you won’t play with them it’s hard to offer you a better option.

    > and secondly, I wish that it was easier for those who wish to enter the workforce;

    Whoa! Didn’t you want to stay in the beis medrash a few paragraphs ago?

  6. I would like them to stand face to face with my 11 year old and answer the question he asked me just yesterday – why do he and his friends have to risk their lives in the army and they don’t? How is that just?

    • Milhouse says:

      Who told him such a thing? He has the same choice they do; he can choose to protect the nation by learning Torah. Perhaps he will choose that; how do you know he won’t? I bless you that he will make this choice.

      • They are not protecting anyone with their Torah learning. They do not understand a word of it. Most of them are not allowed to learn gemara at all, since they do not have the capacity to understand it. They do not learn halacha. They are all “talmidei chachamim” that I, with my limited knowledge of gemara, and pretty good knowledge of everyday halacha, can easily out-debate.

        They take loads of money from the government, and from everyone else’s pocket, and yet, many, if not most, do not pay taxes, do not work, have a high standard of living, do not work. That is not fair.

        Why should I pay for batlanut? Why should I pay for their cigarettes, materna, and two 2000 shekel sheitels? Why should I pay for them to waste time and call themselves talmidei chachamim, when I, who doesn’t know anything, really, can easily prove to them that they are idiots.

        95% of people cannot be talmidei chachamim. Those who can learn, should. But it is unrealistic to say that ALL of a certain community are talmidei chachamim.

        The rest should go out, serve in the army, and get jobs.
        And if it ruins their level spiritually? They never really had one. If they had internalized any of their learning, they would have more yirat Shamayim than to go off the derech at the first sight of a woman wearing pants.

        • First, you are a damned liar. You don’t know every yeshivah bochur in Eretz Yisrael, or even a substantial proportion of them, so how could you possibly know anything about their level of learning? And your claim about their “high standard of living” is blatant nonsense.

          Second, even if it were true, so what? How does that affect the fact that they are learning Torah, and that Torah protects the country? If you deny that Torah protects then you’re stam an apikores, and can go to Hell.

          • You’re right. I don’t know every single one. And I’m not saying that every single one is on a low level.

            What I am saying is that most of them are not on a high enough level to justify staying in yeshiva and living off everyone else on a long term basis.

            Statistically, too, it is impossible for every single person in a given community to be a genius. People were made to do different jobs. Pushing them all into the same box is an injustice to them, and an injustice to society as a whole.

            I know a huge number of chareidi families who have a pretty high standard of living. Or rather, it is an upper-middle class standard of living, but they are getting all their money from other people. So, they should not be living at that standard. They should be scrimping and saving, and living at a much, much lower standard than they actually do.

            I am not saying that learning Torah does not protect the country. I am saying: a) many of them are not learning that much more than they would be if they were serving in the army or working; b) Torah learning to improve social standing, “tov lo shelo nivra”; c) learning gemara if you cannot understand it, is worse than bittul Torah; d) there is also a mitzva to protect your life, as well as a mitzva to defend the land of Israel. Ha’osek b’mitzva patur m’mitzva – do not tell me that someone who is in the army is mevatel talmud Torah. At the end of the day, hishtadlut does not just mean learning gemara that you can’t understand. It means doing what needs to be done. e) dina d’malchusa dina, and if you can’t accept that, you are going against blatant halacha, as well as Torah.

            If you need the “gemara markings” website (shas ozer), you should not be in yeshiva. If you need Schottenstein or Steinsaltz for more than one masechta, you should not be in yeshiva, and if you are, at the very least, you should not be learning gemara – at all. And yet, yeshivot are filled with people who do need these aids.

  7. miriami says:

    Thanks for sharing this, MIL. The logic is very circular–we can’t because we don’t so we can’t is essentially what it all boils down to.
    But even scarier for me is the attitude about work and “accepting” poverty. To me, this is all based on a false notion of what faith means–the belief that Hashem will provide even when someone makes decisions contrary to logic. This would not be so scary if it’s a personal decision to choose poverty, but it impacts spouses, children–and the society that has to foot the bill. Somehow the choice of [socially accepted] poverty is equated to army service. But who does the poverty serve? It seems to me that the author of the comment is using the self-imposed poverty as a justification to not serving in the army since he has been taught that this is equivalent. The implications of this are so distressing.

    • miriami, here’s a good post on the limits of Charedi bitachon when it comes to poverty.
      http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2012/07/hypocrisy-of-selective-bitachon.html

      • Thanks, Abbi. The post also makes it clear that all the arguments are really about supporting a way of life . . . a way of life that just not be sustainable . . . 30 years ago, I heard a prominent Dati Leumi speaker say that haredi life would die out because it is financially. You can only have so many rich fathers in law who can support people. What I find scary is that while logically that would be the case, what has happened instead is that the very illogic/impracticality is what spurs some peoples’ faith–in other words, the hareidi line presented in the comment MIL posted here that says that a real test of faith is living in poverty. And so it goes on and on even as it seems unsustainable.

    • Really? And since when does logic overrule belief in H-m?!

  8. I appreciate that some people want to devote their lives to learning Torah.

    Go ahead.

    But first the army. You can do so in a chareidi unit if you’d like. After 3 years of service, you’ll be 21 years old. Not to old to devote your life to learning.

    But first serve your people and your country.

  9. Abby Spice says:

    Disclaimer: I’m speaking as a 24-year-old American Jew who has not been to Israel and has very few ties to Israel (family members living there and such) but who does firmly support its right to exist as a Jewish state. So, take with a grain of salt or two.

    I wrote my undergrad senior thesis on multiculturalism. Specifically, multiculturalism and women. So this line jumped out at me: “religious standards in the army are not yet exactly appropriate for a Yeshiva bochur, vis-a-vis women”.

    Yeah, too damn bad. Your prejudices, religious or otherwise, don’t get to exempt you from anything. I’m not up on my Israeli anti-discrimination laws, but if they include women in general, the fact that you believe that God somehow thinks that women are lesser–or “different”–than men doesn’t trump that. Let’s try this: “Adonai says I can’t serve next to and on roughly equal footing as black people.” “Adonai says that I can’t serve on roughly equal footing as Australians.” How far are those arguments going to get you?

    When “respecting” a group’s rights means allowing discrimination (in this case not only against Haredi women but against ALL women serving and defending their country. Non-Haredi women serve but Haredi men don’t have to [in part] because they object to being against these brave women?!), that respect is no longer required.

    Perhaps there are other reasons to excuse the ultra-religious from service, but patriarchal, sexist belief doesn’t it with me, and bringing that up as a reason makes me pretty skeptical of any others.

    • Observer says:

      In other words, discrimination against women is evil and never to be tolerated, but religious discrimination is just fine, and even to be encouraged if the religion being discriminated against is one you don’t believe in. And it does not matter one iota if your arguments actually reflect the truth, as long as you don’t like the outcome.

      The issue that Chareidim have with women has nothing to do with women being “lesser”. But they ARE related to many issues that are of serious concern to Chareidim (and in many cases, non-Chareidi Orthodox Jews.)

      You don’t have to agree with the Chareidi (or even non-Chareidi Orthodox Jewish) world view. But have the honesty to admit that people with that religious affiliation DO have a real problem. And have the honesty to acknowledge that you do NOT oppose discrimination in general, just SOME discrimination.

      I do realize that the IDF has a real problem on its hands. But, the first step in dealing with the problem is to recognize that it exists, rather than just deciding that there is no problem, because religious discrimination against Chareidim is not discrimination because the Chareidim are a bunch of cavemen.

      • Abby Spice says:

        Yes. The right to be free of “discrimination against women” trumps religious freedom. That is indeed what I am saying. I’m aware that there are other issues here, other reasons for the Chareidim to not want to serve. But I am not sympathetic to that particular reason, and bringing it up raises a red flag for me. The desire to not serve with women on an equal basis is not a legitimate reason to have any exemption or special treatment at all, period.

        • Part of the charedi doctrine is that mixing of the genders will lead to… mixing of the genders. These are teenagers in their prime who don’t have any experience in dealing with the opposite gender. There is a serious concern that they might act in ways which are morally/religiously unacceptable (to be clear, masturbation is religiously unacceptable, as is any physical contact with the opposite gender.)
          Because the army is a hormonal powder keg, one rabbi went so far as to say that a woman who has served in the army should no longer be considered a virgin. While I think that’s putting too fine a point on it, I certainly believe that working long hours alongside hormonal teenagers of the opposite sex is likely to lead to things other than Torah study.
          This, btw, is one of the reasons that there are programs to bring older (23+), married men into the army – They’re likely to be less susceptible, because they ‘have it at home.’

          • Abby Spice says:

            I hadn’t really even thought about the sex dimension of the issue–I was more concerned with the idea that Charedim have issues serving alongside women because they might, well, have physical contact with the opposite gender. If equality matters, that is not a legitimate reason to excuse or give special dispension to people whose religion does not view women as on equal footing with men. (Some will argue that they’re not saying women are lesser, just different. Belief that black people aren’t lesser, just different, and God says it’s not okay to have physical contact with them, and therefor an exemption should be granted for people whose religion teaches that would not go far.)

            But, aside from the fact that I can line up doctors from here to Tel Aviv and back saying that masturbation is an entirely healthy and normal act, since when is it the Israeli army’s job to keep people from having sexytimes? If it’s “likely to lead to things other than Torah study”, which seems sensible, that may be a problem on practical grounds, but it’s not the military’s responsibility to make sure people don’t violate their own moral codes.

          • Ms. Krieger says:

            Just curious–why would it not be possible for men and women in the IDF to serve in single-gender units? It seems as if there would be many advantages to this.

        • Observer says:

          And “discrimination against women” is anything you choose to call it. So, it’s ok to discriminate against anyone you don’t like, because you can define the “appropriate” bounds any way you please. What an effective way to get people on board.

  10. 1. This argument is typical of other haredi arguments I have heard in that this guy feels absolutely no sense of obligation to serve in the army. The starting point for him is that army service is optional, and all his other arguments stem from that. He may be shocked to hear that if army service were indeed optional, many DL and secular people would no longer feel like serving in the army either.

    2. I find the whole “we need to protect our lifestyle” argument fascinating because it is so clearly drawn from the very modern, secular world that Haredim have for the most part rejected. Haredim figure that if gays and lesbians, and other groups that they disapprove of, can vie for equal rights based on calling themselves “a lifestyle”, so can they. However, they don’t realize that Western moral equivalency has its limits, and that lifestyles that hurt others are not considered legitimate lifestyles. And according to most non-Haredim, a lifestyle that involves living off our tax dollars and getting out of obligatory service to the country is far from harmless to society as a whole.

  11. Shoshanna says:

    While I would like to see the status quo regarding charedim in the army change, I think the charedi commenter raises some good points which will need to be addressed if the Plessner committee’s recommendations are to be carried out. Some charedim who legitimately wanted to join the IDF have had difficult experiences in the army, even when trying to join Nachal Charedi. See this post in Cross-Currents about one family’s negative experience: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2012/06/27/nachal-charedi-reality-check/

    In that case the young man was told that Nachal Charedi was full and he was thrust into an “overflow” unit where his religious requirements were given less accommodation that he might have received in a Hesder unit or even a non-religious Golani brigade! I think the majority of Charedim who do enlist have a much better experience, but the fear of a bad one like this will keep those on the fence from enlisting if they can avoid it.

    I think that the social stigma, lack of friends, and lack of community support for the army are very real issues and it’s easy enough for others to say “too bad, just do it”. The average Dati Leumi young man has had a lifetime of preparation for this move, and has strong social encouragement and rewards for serving in the most elite units. This message is constantly reinforced from rebbeim, friends, and relatives and many enlist as part of a Hesder unit where they will be serving alongside other religious boys, many of them friends. I can’t imagine anyone having the courage to go to the army without this support network. That’s not to say that charedim should be exempt for social reasons. But I think that the army has to take these social factors very seriously and redouble its efforts to reach out to the community and work with it to create a new reality where it is acceptable and commendable to do your service.

    These kids have been raised to see the IDF as my grandfather saw the Czar’s army. That prejudice will not be easy to change, and it certainly won’t be accomplished by suddenly throwing tens of thousands of yeshiva bochrim into jail.

    • I agree with this.
      Also, don’t forget- this system has been in place for 65, since the birth of the State of Israel.
      It’s simple to say “Well, it’s wrong and should have been changed decades ago” but politically, socially – it’s not so simple.

      You say the Chazon Ish started this movement- he was here when this decision was put into place, he was the one who met with Ben Gurion and convinced him to let the Yeshiva students to stay in yeshiva.
      It’s not so simple to convince an entire segment of the population (tens of thousands? hundreds?) that it should be changed now. Everything was like this for so many years.

      Change isn’t simple.

    • That article was thoroughly debunked. Someone, either the kid or the father, was lying.

  12. ruth cohen says:

    shalom from jerusalem

    the haradim live in a sterile world of torah learning and is out of touch with reality. the haradim need to be seen as part of israeli society and contributing. and they are not viewed like that. by living in ghettos and blaming others for not liking you – you close your eyes to what is going on here.

    you are not put on this earth to be pure souls floating around preaching words. that is what nuns do. not jews. we are part of a family and need to help out. we are all in real danger and it is very ugly to see men who will not be part of the solution as they want to be more holy to help the rest of us.

    we need to be alive first, then we can read words and debate. we need to get down and dirty and be part of am ysrael in all the ways. your need to be seperate and away from the main stream is causing the anger and the backlash. the more the haradim reach out with kindness to am ysrael and show that they are going to be part of the nation and not split hairs about attaining perfection now – the more unity will come about.

    you see so many dont see how you learning in yeshiva helps them. they dont get it. and frankly nor do i – and i have great respect for torah. king david had prayers and a sword. why do you quote him and not follow his example.

  13. There is absolutely no excuse. All I hear from this bochur is whining about how kife in the IDF is not the hareidi equivalent of a silver platter.

    You think it will be difficult to go through the army with no friends? I’m an American who is VOLUNTEERING in the IDF. I have no circle of friends here. I have no family here. I chose to make aliyah and serve anyways.

    Dear God… Maybe you should spend some time in the US. See how few and far between kosher restaurants are. See how tuition is bankrupting American Jews. See how you get ostracized for wearing peyos on the New York subway. See what it really means to have a Jewish state and allow you to appreciate it enough to serve it.

    • Shoshanna says:

      I think what you have done is awesome and admirable, but very difficult. You set a very high standard for others to follow. Most of your peers, whether Israeli or American, are not going through this, and probably wouldn’t volunteer to do so. The Lone Soldier Center was created of out of a recognition of how difficult it is to be a chayal boded. I hope you are in touch with them, and I would like to think the army is doing what it can to provide comparable support for charedim. A lonely, miserable soldier is not good for the army, either.

      By the way, I ride the NYC subways all the time, and never heard of anyone being tormented for looking Jewish. There are 5 kosher pizza shops within a few blocks of each other in my neighborhood. (But you do have a good point about tuition….) Don’t get me wrong, I know this is galut and Israel is our true home. But you won’t convince many others to join the Israeli army by making the US sound like Nazi-era Germany. It’s just not reality, and the charedim know it too.

  14. i just got volume 2 of shut kanfei yonah by r. metzger. the third teshuvah deals issues such as learning vs. army, rebbis, talmidei chachamim and civilians fleeing areas of bombardment during lebanon war, etc.

  15. NAOMI:

    “Why rage against it? How does that help anything? Work with reality, people!”

    sounds like good advice. nu?

  16. I deleted some comments, and left some that are borderline. Please keep the tone civil.

  17. Here are some thoughts
    1 The boy is not saying I feel I have an obligation to do my share , but what can I do the religious situation does not allow it – the truth is that it is a convenient excuse to avoid national service. Nachal Chareidi has its problems but with effort and commitment they will get sorted out.

    2 When a chareidi boy goes to the hospital or to work there is a clear understanding that he cannot demand a lifestyle with all its chumrot. If he is being machmir on certain issues he is being mei’kil on pikuach nefesh. What Nachal Chareidi offers goes beyond the basic halacha.

    3 MK Gafni , always says that boys who are not in learning should go to the army , he does not talk about lifestyle

    4 Living off others is not a problem , being self supporting, supporting a family is not a value. We have gone a long way from Pesel Micha – who thought it was better to work for Ovada zara than live on the expense of others

    5 It was genrally accepted that the outstanding Talmidim would continue in learning and live off the community and not any Tom, Dick or Harry who wants to be in learning. I hold that every community should have a Kollel . One of the problems is learning is concentrated in certain parts of the country

    6 It would be great if Smicha would be recognized as an equivalent to a BA as far as jobs go.

    7 I say to the boy , if you an outstanding bo’chur who learns 18 hours a day – go for it , if not understand that community pressure has its purpose but individuals have to make a choice – no Rosh Yeshivah is going to support you financially when you are down and out. The longer you wait , the harder it gets to leave and intergrate into the work force.

    8 You have your whole life ahead of you, plenty of time to learn and also time to learn from life itself

  18. This is interesting to me from an American perspective. Admittedly, I’m not Israeli or Jewish, so maybe I have no place in this debate, but I have a comparison.

    The Amish live in several states in the U.S. They’re Christian, like the U.S. majority, but they’re vastly different. They grow long beards, have a distinct style of (old-fashioned) dress, often in muted colors. They divide the community by gender. If they go to state schools at all, they only go until they’re 13 or so (the community is not homogenous). After that, the men farm, the women keep house and both study the Bible.

    The Amish are exempt from military service, paying taxes (except for sales taxes) and from national education requirements, among other things. HOWEVER, they get this because they receive absolutely no aid from our government. They don’t get government medical care, they don’t receive government disaster assistance, they don’t get subsidized child care or food stamps if they’re low-income (like other low-income families might).

    As I understand it, though, haredim DO receive those kinds of benefits from the Israeli government. But otherwise they don’t put IN to the government. At least for our government, that couldn’t last long term. Isn’t there some way to build some kind of give-and-take system between the Israeli community? In the U.S., if you opt out of the military draft for religious reasons, you can be required to perform other services for the government like working in hospitals or prisons. Could something like that be used to accommodate the haredim? The original poster does say he’d be open to an alternative to military service.

    • Sorry Allie, but making comparisons here, to other religions, in other nations, is pointless.

      Hareidim are a large and distinct portion of the Israeli population. The main problem is the detrimental affect joining the regular IDF can have – not on their ‘lifestyle’ – but on their whole life – everything that means Life to them.

      What is needed are not more units or battalions, but a whole other section like navy, or airforce, set up and controlled by Hareidim.

  19. Though I consider myself chareidi, I still believe that all men that CAN do army service, SHOULD do army service. I don’t believe that this young man’s arguments are valid enough, to keep him from doing his part for his country.

    Army service isn’t easy for anyone, but it has to be done. Everyone, given an hour or two, everyone could come up with reasons that he should be exempt. But then, who would protect this country?

    Full Disclosure: My disabled son applied for the army and was turned down.

    • My husband went when they called him up, and at the end of the whole sivuv, they told him that they don’t need an oleh who is married with a kid. 😀 He was kind of disappointed, and still dreams of going back and offering to serve when they finally start calling up the chareidim. “They’ll need chareidi officers for them,” he says.

  20. I served in the Nachal Charedi unit. While serving I spoke to a soldier from a charedi family. He looked completely charedi, peyot and all.
    He is considered a lone soldier because he was kicked out of his house and community. He has to pay his own rent….
    Even the charedim that want to serve are scared to.

  21. Yair Spolter says:

    Aryeh,
    Your friend was not disowned by his family because he wanted to serve in the IDF. There is much more to the story – it didn’t start with him waking up one morning and saying, ‘Hey, Mom and Dad, I think I want to fight in tzahal” – and then they tore kriah. I live in a very charedi neighborhood and I am aware of a number of these stories. They are always very involved and evolve over years. Your comment is misleading.

    • How do you know that? Are you omniscient?

      Your arrogance is astonishing, and all too typical. And you wonder why everyone else is completely sick of the whole situation.

      • Yair Spolter says:

        Baraska, you are missing my point. I’m speaking from experience and knowledge. As I said clearly in my comment, I live in a chardedi neighborhood. I have children in the system and I have taught in educational institutions in Israel for teenage boys. I have had students who joined nachal charedi and I have had personal contact with the wonderful people running the program.
        Like it or not, Isreali charedi boys who end up in these units generally have a long story of issues in school and at home. To draw general conclusions about charedi attitudes based on the fact that Aryeh’s friend was not accepted by his family, is irresponsible. That’s what I was trying to point out. The fact that this boy is in the army is typically a late chapter in a long story – not the root cause of him being shunned in his family’s eyes. Sure, someone who enjoys drawing stereotypes will find it easy to draw a conclusion here by making assumptions. But that’s a very dishonest and irresponsible approach. If we want to promote achdus, that’s just not the way to do it.
        As for my arrogance, please understand that this is a personal flaw that I am working on and it does not reflect the greater society that I live in (“typical’ as you claim).

  22. Another thing I should mention is, he did not join the army because of issues at home. He said Yeshiva just wasn’t for him. Not everyone can be expected to enjoy and feel accomplished in Yeshiva. Joining a religious unit such as the Nachal Charedi is a great alternative, unfortunately his family and community didn’t feel that way.

  23. All this tension could be solved if everyone in the relevant positions would at least explore the possibility of a volunteer professional army.

    Then everyone could choose his or her own destiny in life no matter ones background.

    It will strenghen the economy and make the Haredi world self sufficient.

    The rest of Israeli society will have one less thing to complain about and we can stop this pointless fighting.

    It will bring peace. Possibly hasten the redemption. Amen

    For more information see mahar.co.il

  24. I would like to clarify about lone soldiers: They get NIS 900 toward rent, which is usually not enough, but they could also live for free at a kibbutz or “Beit Hachayal” (a dormitory for soldiers). All lone soldiers get double the salary of other soldiers. Admittedly that is not a great amount of money.

  25. Clever Dick says:

    I think that it serves no purpose to force Israeli Chareidim into the army, as it is not set up to accommodate them
    Apart from the problem of being in proximity with the opposite sex or potential breaking of the Sabbath, etc.., there are also Israeli soldiers who are openly anti-religious and that would make the Chareidim very uncomfortable. Would anyone on this board like to have to endure constant baiting about their religious beliefs or worse, be forced to compromise their beliefs in order to fit into a place which poours scorn on their lifestyles? This is not about a Chareidi being dependent on his family and rejecting the army in order not to upset them. This is about a Chareidi being true to himself and respecting his beliefs
    Did any devout Protestants, Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses serve in World Wars 1 and 2?

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