…are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
For today, I was planning an update on Israel’s coalitional negotiations; a few days before their end, two rookies sent Netanyahu back to school creating a fascinating mosaic. Apparently the next Israeli government would be a rare one, without Haredim and Hasidim, the Jewish Ultra-Orthodoxy is about to be abandoned by the Zionists, who seem to have forgotten the Unholy Alliance that allowed the creation of the State of Israel.
This development led to protests that are a more powerful event than the negotiations; they reminded me a well known text, which is oddly relevant to the Haredi position:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.Mourning in Protest to Draft Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness….But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…” (from the Preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence).
Let me save your time by pointing out myself how ridicule this text reads; not because it is wrong, on the contrary. It is one of the most important texts on freedom ever written. The point is that the proclaiming organization of that text had become itself a tool of world-wide war and oppression. Yet, the text is relevant to Haredi Draft.
The vast majority of Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel are exempt of military service; readers not familiar with the situation of the Haredim in Israel can find a short summary at the bottom of this page. The exemption was one of the conditions imposed by them while joining government coalitions.
Right now, Netanyahu is being blackmailed by a coalition slightly stronger in force than his party is. Lapid, Bennet and Mofaz had created a force stronger by two seats; they are the new focus of political power in Israel. They have decided against cooperation with the Haredim, mainly because Lapid’s party, the second largest, is wildly anti-religious. He wants them to enlist. Lacking the political power to oppose the “gzirah” (roughly “evil verdict” combined with “persecution”), Haredim are protesting. A few days ago they said “Better to serve in the Nazi Army than in the IDF.” Now they are mourning, note the rags used atop the clothes in the picture.
A few months ago, Rabbi Tuvia Weiss said, “We will not allow yeshiva (Jewish college) students to be taken to the army or police.” Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach said that opposition to enlistment should be regarded a mitzvah (religious commandment) that warrants self sacrifice. On March 9, 2013, Rabbi Auerbach commented on the “equal share of the burden” (as Haredi Draft is often referred as in Israel), saying, “It’s a destructive decree that must not be obeyed under any circumstances, if we thought a compromise could be reached, we could have already done so 2,000 years ago and would not have needed all the killings and destructions. When they threaten to take some guy, it’s not that guy’s personal problem; it’s the problem of all the Jewish people.
They are considering ways to do it by plotting against individuals, but it’s not the personal problem of the family or the guy, but of all the people of Israel. When they attempt to uproot religion, every single person and every individual they try to hurt and take – it’s part of the destruction, part of the uprooting of religion.” Shortly afterwards, Haredi students about to be drafted photographed themselves in shackles (see top picture) and announced “we are glad to go to prison.”
Mourning Protest to Haredi Draft
Melting Pot or Fusion Reactor?
At first sight, the Ultra-Orthodox position looks as an attempt to avoid the draft out of the wrong considerations. Yet, everybody aware of the IDF reality must recognize that they are correct. English uses the term “melting pot” to define heterogeneous societies that eventually create new cultures. Hebrew is far more direct than English, the term used is “koor hituch,” which translates as “fusion pot,” and also “fusion reactor.” It describes better the cultural violence and intolerance of Jewish secularism.
The IDF is a microcosmos of the Israeli society; even in their own units Ultra-Orthodox Jews would experience a secular-fanatic attempt to “humanize” them (because military units do not live in a vacuum, they interact with the army and society). Humanists do not accept other methods of life as legitimate; while preaching democratic values, they want everybody to marry, have two children, a mortgage and worship a meaningless flag and anthem as symbols of their cherished secular state; according to them, blaspheming God is optional, but recommended. Secular Israel is attempting to change the cultural and religious background of part of its citizens.
This is task of no government. America’s forefathers already said “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.” “Glad to go to prison,” Haredi young men say now. It is better to go to prison than to serve an oppressive, and thus illegitimate, government.
Addendum: Jewish Orthodoxy and the Army
On August 22, 1999, the then Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak appointed the Tal Committee, which dealt with the special exemption from mandatory military service in the IDF given to ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim and Hasidim). It was headed by retired Justice Tzvi Tal; thus it was named after him. On July 23, 2002, the Tal Law, based on the committee results, was passed in the Knesset. It enabled the continuation of the IDF service-exempt given to yeshiva members (“yeshiva” means “sitting” in Hebrew; it is the name of Jewish religious colleges).
At the age of 22, yeshiva members would receive a year of decision in which they would need to choose to continue their studies or to go to work. Those who choose to go out of the yeshiva and work would need to choose between a minimalist army service of four months, and then reserve duties according to the army’s needs, or a civilian service of one year. The service would be done in special IDF units organized according to religious needs, like Nahal Battalion 97 (the IDF has several ethnic units, see Explosion in Sinai).
Secular Jews opposed the law, claiming that it discriminated against them by being forcing them (by default because they don’t get a similar exemption) to serve at least three years in the IDF. Yet, using half-hidden laws, secular Jews can also get service exemptions. In 2005, the State admitted in a response to a bagatz+ petition, that the Tal Law had failed to change enlistment practices of Orthodox Jews.
Back then, only a few dozen ultra-Orthodox Jews enlisted in the army as a result of the law; by the beginning of 2012, the number was still below 900. In 1974, only 2.4% of high school graduates about to enroll in the IDF were exempt because they were yeshiva members. In 1999, they were 9.2%; it was 15% in 2012. These numbers are a clear sign of a very benevolent discrimination by the State of Israel towards Haredim and Hasidim. Yet, the same secular Jews who petitioned the High Court on their own behalf, do not oppose other types of discrimination enforced by the IDF towards other minorities.
On February 21, 2012, the Supreme Court of Israel annulled the “Tal Law,” with a majority of 6 justices against 3. Dorit Beinisch, then President of the Court supported the decision: “we can help to bring a gradual change,” she said. Asher Dan Grunis, who later replaced her, opposed the decision. He said that the thought the court would bring Haredim to serve in the IDF is “an illusion.”
“It doesn’t help the status of the court, we won’t bring change,” he added. In August, the law expired and became one of the main reasons that forced Netanyahu to call for early elections. The main argument of the Orthodox leaders is that they care about their youth, who want nothing but to study Torah. As said, they behave like Asian leaders and thus sound manipulative to the secular crowd.
However, this is not the entire picture. An important part of the religious Jews is made up by the abovementioned Religious-Zionists, who go to the army as seculars do. For the sake of American readers, I must emphasize that all of them practice Orthodox Judaism; Reform and Conservative Jews are not part of this. Following the elections, Naftali Bennet, their leader, is in a tough situation.
He has a long history with Netanyahu; it began with love and ended with hatred and a wild attack on him by Netanyahu in the last days of the campaign. Contacts, between Bennet and Lapid in an attempt to form an alliance against Netanyahu were announced publicly. Yet, this is not something Bennett can sell to his electorate. The Bible is above the secular state, allying a heretic “rabbit eater” is absolutely non-kosher. On the same day, leading rabbis belonging to Religious-Zionism caused a major earthquake, signalling a realignment of Israeli politics. The donkey of the Messiah is about to be dismissed.
Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards.
In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.