To insist on the equivalence of kolleleit to any other societal group is a double-edged sword. A few years back, income supplements for kolleleit meeting certain criteria were challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court on the grounds that such supplements were not available to university students. The Israeli Supreme Court agreed, and rather than extend the supplements to university students, it got rid of them altogether.It is the last paragraph that we are to pay extra attention to. In truth, it's actually less radical than the usual set of claims one hears because it assumes equivalence between the Tzahal's efforts and those of the KDF (Kollel Defence Force) instead of the more common "The KDF is the real army of Israel". But as Rav Slifkin notes:
I argued at the time that the Supreme Court had erred because university studies and kollel studies are manifestly not the same thing and provide different benefits to society. A democratic legislature can favor one over the other and in different ways precisely because they are manifestly not identical.
No issue so enrages secular Israelis about the chareidi community as the draft deferment for yeshivah students. Chareidi support for generous benefits for those who serve in the IDF is one means of mitigating that animosity. As Rabbi Grylak frequently reminds us, we are a minority in Israeli society, and, as such, should go out of our way not to irritate our secular brethren, especially at a time when Prime Minister Netanyahu has already vowed to review internal social priorities in light of the “social justice” protests.
We will not convince secular Israelis that kollel students protect Israeli society no less than IDF soldiers, and demanding that social policy conform to that assumption only infuriates them.
Never mind secular Israelis - you won't convince anyone of that. On a theoretical level, it has a very shaky foundation. On a practical level, nobody really believes it - not even charedim.Further on, Rav Slifkin states:
Second, and most significantly: Regardless of the sources that someone might dig up/ reinterpret to claim that yeshivah and kollel students are protecting Israel, the bottom line is that (a) the facts on the ground demonstrate otherwise, and (b) when push comes to shove, the charedim don't even believe it themselves.Certainly one can think back only a few ago to Operation Cast Lead. The souther Chareidi community's reaction to the barrage of rockets shot out of 'Aza was not to run to the beis medrash but to Bene Beraq. If Torah study protects, why the need to flee?
The facts on the ground - as the Gemara would say, הא קא חזינן דלאו הכי הוא! From the tragedy of the Holocaust, to the 1929 massacres in Chevron, to the murders several years ago at Mercaz HaRav Kook, it is evident that Torah students are not even automatically protected from harm themselves, let alone protecting others. And this is only military harm - there are plenty of other kinds of harm that affect Torah students, from illness to fires to road accidents. And Israel does not seem to be any safer now than in 1948, despite the fact that there are 40,000 extra people learning in yeshivah/ kollel.
The charedim don't even believe it themselves. In Kiryat Sefer and Betar, bastions of the charedi community which are full of kollelim, they have the same security fences and armed guards as every other town in Israel that is over the Green Line. They have the same protections against different types of harm; in fact, charedim often seek to get the best doctor, not just a regular doctor! Any charedi person, given the choice of living in a settlement with a kollel but no guards, or a settlement with guards but no kollel, would choose the latter.
It is Rav Slifkin's final line, however, that leads one to see the innate contradiction that the idea of the KDF presents:
So, if you want to claim that we need lots of people in kollel in order to rebuild Torah after the losses of the Holocaust (although there is vastly more Torah learned today than before the Holocaust), fine. But don't claim that you believe that kollel students are remotely equivalent to the IDF in terms of protecting the country. They're not, and you know it.Now here's where the inherent contradiction comes in. The reason the "Gedolim" decreed after the Holocaust that the only good Jew is a full-time learning Jew is because of the need to rebuild the devastated Torah community. However, if Torah study protects as the KDF claims it does, how did the Holocaust affect the Torah community of Europe? Should they not have been immune to the devastation? And if Torah study doesn't protect, if the IDF is superior to the KDF, then what excuse does the community really have for evading their share in the protection of Israel?