Here’s what Jill from Writes Like She Talks said about me:
If you want to get an excellent idea of how this issue applies practically, A Mother in Israel is a fantastic blog – well-written, by a mom of five (is it five?! yes, not four, but not six I think) who made aliyah many years ago but actually grew up part of her life in the Midwest. I’ve exchanged numerous emails with her and other personal information and assure you that if you want a real flavor of life after moving permanently to Israel, as a modern Orthodox Jew (though I don’t know if she actually would refer to herself that way but I think that’s pretty much how we’d classify her here – feel free to comment on that Mother in Israel), hers is a good one to read.
Actually, six is right. Thank you Jill! An NPR report about haredim who attend the army inspired Jill to write the following:
The NPR segment identifies the following reasons why the ultra-Orthodox want the exemption from service: so they can study, so they can make money, so they can avoid danger and because, according to NPR, they see military service as “immoral.”
I didn’t get the same reasons from the transcript she linked to (I don’t have patience to listen to the actual radio report, and my house is too noisy anyway) but I will respond to each one.
- Study: Do haredi men want an exemption so they can study in yeshiva, or do they stay in yeshiva so that they can avoid the army? We have a chicken-and-egg question here.
- Work: When the student said that his parents wouldn’t object if he went to work instead of learning in yeshiva, NPR seems to have missed the point that once you defer your call-up in order to study in yeshiva, you can’t work or enroll in university. In other words, the haredi parents referred to in the story objected to army service, not to working for a living.
- Danger: Avoiding danger is obviously a major factor, and needless to say downplayed by the haredi leadership.
- Immorality: I don’t believe that haredim consider army service to be immoral in and of itself. They are certainly not pacifists. When haredim talk about immorality in the army, I understand them to be referring to contact with women (something like 7% of all female soldiers have abortions each year) and to a lesser degree Shabbat and kashrut. A related and even more important factor is exposure–the charedim are afraid of losing large numbers to secular culture should the draft exemption for yeshiva study be eliminated.
Jill continues with her own comments:
While all those goals are served by not serving, there is another reason why the ultra-Orthodox don’t serve that wasn’t mentioned: the ultra-Orthodox don’t believe that the state of Israel should exist before the coming of the Messiah. And so they won’t defend it.
This used to be much more of an issue than it is today. As my husband says, the haredim (except for the most extreme) have become more Zionist, and the rank-and-file tend to be hard-line right-wingers, while the “post-Zionist” extreme left wing has adopted the views of the early haredim: They now consider it acceptable to avoid the army, and they don’t believe there is a need for a Jewish state. Excuse me while I crawl back into my apolitical hole for a while.