ז׳ בסיון ה׳תשע״ז (June 1, 2017) OP-ED: Haredim Must Stop Resisting the IDF Draft

Earlier in the year, an ultra-Orthodox soldier visiting his home in Mea Shearim, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, was violently attacked before police arrived at the scene. For the most part, the people in the Haredi community are opposed to forced conscription into the IDF (Israeli Defense Force).

Unlike other Israelis who don’t agree with forced conscription, many Haredim don’t actually have to go into the army. In 2014, a law was passed limiting the number of Haredi army draft exemptions, but the Knesset has passed many bills since then postponing the effects of the law. Ultra- Orthodox exemption from the army only hurts society, and causes more hate within the Israeli community. Ultra-Orthodox teens should be forced to go into the army because they are Israelis and benefit from living in the State of Israel.

In 1948 when the State of Israel was founded, ultra-Orthodox teens were exempt from going into the army for two reasons, the first being that they were only a tiny segment of the population because most of their community had perished in the Holocaust. The second reason was that Haredim valued advancing Judaism through text study, and they couldn’t do that in the army.

Today, their situation is extremely different. Haredim make up 10% of the entire Jewish population in Israel. In addition, it’s estimated that 30 years from now they may make up over 25% of the Jewish population due to their extremely high birth rate. Since Israel’s law is mandatory army service for all Jewish citizens, it is extremely unfair that 10% of the teens do not have to enlist. Also, army service is for slightly less than three years, so the men will have the entire rest of their lives to study Torah after they contribute to their country.

The next big point is contribution. What do ultra-Orthodox Jews contribute to modern day Israeli society? They contribute little to the economy, as only 47.5% of Haredi men are in the work force, and 71% of women work.

“They receive the most financial assistance from the state while being one of the lowest-employed demographic groups in the country,” states Vice writer Daniel Tepper.

If anything, Haredim are hurting the Israeli economy, and they get away with it. The ultra-Orthodox shouldn’t be allowed to receive so much financial aid from the government without participating in the army or national service.

Finally, Haredi military service exemption causes an even stronger divide between religious and secular Jews. In an already divided country, there isn’t any room for more hate. There are many secular Israelis who don’t support forced conscription, but they don’t have a way to avoid the army or national service, and this causes a lot of resentment.

Another difference is the way that the communities handle the situation. Secular Jews may protest, but many try to fix it legislatively or opt for doing national service instead. Haredim have responded to Israel easing them into army conscription with hate, violence, and denial.

“In addition to the recent incidents of incitement against ultra-Orthodox soldiers, there have also been widespread protests over the past few months by members of the community against Israel’s compulsory military service,” explains Times of Israel staff.

To be sure, some might argue that forcing Haredim into the army isn’t worth the hassle. There are already thousands of people in the army, and the IDF doesn’t need any more soldiers. However, nobody should be able to reap government-provided social benefits without earning them. If Haredim don’t want to participate in the IDF or national service, they can always move to America where army service isn’t mandatory, and study all day there instead.

Although text study is important for the continuation of religious Judaism, there is no threat to life in most army positions and absolutely no threat in national service. For years, Haredi Jews have been exempt from contributing to their own country, and it’s about time that they begin to help Israel instead of hurting it.

TEHILA CHERRY
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