Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday 17 March 2013

Don't Count Your Chareidim Until They've Been Drafted

And now the news from Israel is bleak if you only own white shirts and black suits.  According to the news reports the imminently incoming government in Israel will, for the first time in decades, have no Chareidi parties in it. (I dislike those who say it will be a secular government.  There will be plenty of observant Jews in it and in positions of influence, no less)  As a result the government can finally discuss something which is of great concern to the secular population: the drafting of the Chareidi population in the name of equality.
On the surface this is an easy issue.  Seen simply, the Chareidim have been living off the State for decades without contributing anything back.  Their boys sit and learn claiming to be the real protectors of the State while non-Chareidi boys go out and do the actual protecting.  There has been no gratitude and only minimal recognition of this from the Chareidi side and it's time the burden was shared equally.
Unfortunately life is not that simple.  First of all, the depiction in the above paragraph in no way reflects the entire Chareidi population, just a significant portion of it.  Since 1947 there has been not a small number of Chareidim who have equally shared the burdens with the secular population, working, building and dying for the State.  They have had the further difficulty of having to deal with the other part of the community, the part that sees the State as evil incarnate (except when the welfare cheques arrive).
Yes, equal sharing of the national burden of defence is an important goal.  Yes, Chareidi 18 year olds should feel the same pressure to contribute to the wellbeing of the State as 18 year old non-chareidim.  But as anyone who follows life in Israel knows this isn't going to happen.
To be an observant Jew there are certain obligations one must accept.  One must accept that the only edible food out there is kosher food.  One must accept that one cannot watch television on Shabbos.  And so on.
The Chareidim in Israel have added to that list as a condition for membership in their community.  To be a good Chareidi, it seems, one must disparage the State, see serving in the army as a sure path to personal damnation and consider the idea of working for a living anathema.
Again, this is not true of the entire Chareidi population, just a significant proportion that loves to portray itself as the superior part of that community.
Imagine the State of Israel were to make it a national obligation to eat bacon for breakfast on alternating Tuesdays in the winter.  What if they were to make the attending of pornographic live plays compulsory? Could you imagine the response from not just the Chareidim but from the rest of the Torah-observant population?  There would be outrage and resistance and why not?   Acquiescence to such laws is unthinkable to a Torah observant Jew because it strikes at the very identity of that Torah observance.
Well for the proportion of the Chareidi community we're discussing the idea of serving in the army is pretty much on the same level.  With their characteristic black and white thinking they can see no difference between being soldiers and being forced to eat bacon or drive on Shabbos.  They all threaten what are defining features of Chareidi society.
Now, we can argue as to whether it's normal or functional for a community to have lack of gratitude to the State it lives in or refusal to serve in its army as ikkari haemunah in the first place but we cannot argue that these ikkarim are there and will serve as an obstacle to the draft.
Not that this draft will ever happen, mind you.
Yes, the quietly funny party of this controversy is that it will never happen.  Consider the details leaked so far.  No initiation of the draft until 2017.  No jail time for refusal to serve. 
The year 2017 is far off.  There is a good chance that there will be a new government in place by then and unlike today it is quite possible that the Chareidi parties will once again be in a controlling position.  And when they are one can be quite sure this draft plan will be quietly shelved.
Yair Lapid can congratulate himself.  He has satisfied his voters by delivering "the draft".  He has also set it up in such a way so that when it fails he won't be held responsible.
So my advice to my Chareidi friends in Israel (yes, I have a few) is: don't pack your bags.  Your sons aren't going to any army.  Just relax and stop making such a fuss.  It just makes you look that much more parasitic.


Atheodox Jew said...

Good post. A couple of comments:

1. Even though you're right that a lot of things can/will change between now and 2017 which makes the draft far from a foregone conclusion, there's still something to be said for keeping the issue/expectation in the public discourse, something that will not go away. Because over time it will "normalize" the idea in more moderate charedi circles. Which brings me to...

2. Just like there is such a thing as "conscientious objector" status, it seems to me that for charedim to whom the State/Army is "evil" should NOT be serving in the IDF and should get some sort of "objector" status. As opposed to those who acknowledge the importance of the State/Army and don't object to its very existence - they should have to enlist like everyone else, even if they think Torah learning is a greater "protection". Then great, let them join units where they have limud Torah rotations in addition to regular army operations.

ahg said...

There needs to be a penalty for claiming "objector" status. You can't police intent, only actions. There needs to be a way to distinguish between a true "objector" and one who just is looking for an easy out. What would you suggest be the downside of being an "objector?"

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

The problem with conscientious objector is the assumption that people will independently and honestly only use it in extreme cases. Can you imagine what would happen if this was indeed an option? Right after davening every morning from the time they're 3 all Chareidi boys would be trained to say "I refuse army service on conscientious grounds" so they'd be ready when draft time came. It would become a principle of Chareidism that a good Chareidi refuses the draft on conscientous grounds. There would be have to be a major penalty for such a status.

Atheodox Jew said...

For sure, there would have to be some way to weed out bona fide objectors from frauds. Though it may not be as tough as you'd think, since people are less individual in these matters than they are aligned with the hashkafa of their community and their rav/posek.

So if you belong to a normative charedi community where the rav votes Gimmel (or anything else), that means you're not against the State per se and you get drafted. Whereas if you're part of Satmar or Neturei Karta or any such sect that refuses to vote or recognize the State, the kind of people who yell "gevalt" and spit on non-charedi women, who prefer Ahmadinejad to Netanyahu - well, you get the "objector" status. (And gladly I should add, because frankly that level of psychosis isn't exactly what you want to entrust with firearms or national security.)

ahg said...

Hmmm... It's hard to prove group identity. Just because they were born into chareidi community X doesn't mean at 18 they won't pledge allegiance to Neutrei Kara to avoid serving.

The idea of using voting as litmus test, gives me an idea: How about if you declare "objector" status you forfeit your right to vote, forever.

Would the right wing parties ever give up their political influence by telling their youth to declare themselves "objectors?"

Atheodox Jew said...

ahg - Good points. Just floating some ideas here!

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Look, there's an easy way to handle this that no one seems to want to discuss: simply tie receipt of benefits from the state like public health care, access to government services like passports, etc. to those who have done army service or a legitimate alternative like national service.
This could be applied to the entire population, religious, non-religious, Jew, Arab. You don't want to do army (or we won't let you in the case of Arabs)? Do national service. Work in hospitals and schools, contribute to the state.
That's too much for you? Fine, sit and learn but without welfare cheques, public health care coverage, etc.
It's simply, fair and easy to apply without discrimination.