During his visit last night he asked me my opinion of the ongoing draft controversy in Israel. Of course he had been told by his community leaders all the standard lies the Chareidi leadership is spreading, about how the draft is part of the secular plot to destroy Torah in Israel and the like.
So I countered back that the draft would, if anything, enhance the position of the Torah community in Israel if the Chareidim would cooperate properly with it. This would seem to go contrary to the assertion of the Chareidi leadership that this attempt to draft their young 'uns is equivalent to the worst anti-Jewish atrocities in history. I pointed out that a life of poverty is a terrible thing to inflict on an entire community. I also noted that at its height the kollelim of Europe had a few hundred men learning full-time and that full-time full-community kollel is a post-war innovation whose time seems to have come and gone.
He himself noted that in Europe you had to be an ilui to get into the system, that an average person showing up and announcing that he wanted to learn full-time would have been laughed at and told to find a job. He also noted that the level of mesirus nefesh of those European learners far exceeds that of those nowadays who, despite the privations of their undesirable financial status still have living standards that far exceed those of our ancestors.
Then I mentioned that the army has bent over backwards to accomodate the Chareidim it will draft in terms of men-only environments, a mix of army duty and learning, a shortened service period, ultra-kosher food on the bases, etc. I pointed out that with all the verbal abuse and threats coming out of the Chareidi community's representatives it is a testament to the innate kindness of the secular population that there hasn't been an attempt to mass-deport the Chareidim from the country. What kind of people get called Nazis, Russians, animals and the like, get compared to the worst villians in Jewish history, get told they are trash after giving over billions of dollars for nothing in return and don't react strongly but instead try to find further ways to compromise? In short, if Chazal believed that compromise in dispute was a noble goal, who's acting more observant?
My acquaintance seemed to understand that point. He asked what interest the Dati Leumi had in all of this, if they were religious why were they supporting the draft? I told him that there is no reason a religious Jew can't serve in the army and that the presence of so many religious Jews might just have a profound effect on the non-religious boys they come in contact with. They have so much potentials to produce a huge kiddush HaShem how could they not jump at the opportunity?
Finally I pointed out that even many Chareidi authorities (although it is generally denied now) lauded the creation of the State of Israel as a show of kindness from the Ribono shel Olam, a great demonstration of His chesed after the horrors of the Holocaust. To stand up as a community and say that they want no part in this divine gift, that they don't even recognize God's hand in it and what's more they will vigorouly fight against its ongoing success and refuse to contribute to it is an incredible show of ingratitude and a rejection of God Himself, no matter how much they want to delude themselves that they are the real upholders of His Will in this world.
This guy listened. Unfortunately there are others out there who still have their heads in the sand. Rav Yaakov Mencken, once again, exemplifies all those who give the rest of the Jewish world the impression that Chareidim are rude ingrates who have no appreciation or respect for "the other". It is hard to decide what part of his article is most insulting. Is it the part where he lionizes the yeshivah boy arrested for refusing to be drafted who then acts like he's really showed those nassssssty secular Israelis the true power of Torah? Is it his praise of Rav Shmuel Auerbach who, until yesterday (it seems) was in the Chareidi doghouse for daring to defy the political opinions of Rav Shteinman and Rav Kaneivsky? Suddenly he's a darling in the Chareidi community for his role in promulgating the "right" behaviour.
Maybe it's his use of the word "racism" in the title, one which betrays a complete lack of understanding of the word's meaning and cheapens it through its inappropriate use. Perhaps its his conclusion in which he essentially calls anyone who disagrees with him "Amalek", a charge he then denies in the comments section as if we're idiots who can't read and need him to interpret his own simplistic scrawlings for us.
The best response to this dribble is from a post at Rationalist Judaism in which the guest author, one Rav Moshe Gold points out the obvious:
In fact, I can't think of a single area in which you participate with the rest of Klal Yisrael. In one of my more aggressive moments I asserted that since the State and the IDF have been doing so well for 66 years without your prayers, let's better leave it that way. We don't want to rock the boat, you know.Yes indeed. One of the reasons this argument has gone on for so long is because we see the Chareidim as members of the Jewish family. They aren't co-citizens or co-religionists. They are our brothers, our family dating back to Yaakov Avinu, a"h. People are prepared to spend a lot more emotion and effort to help family than neighbours or strangers. But there are limits, especially when that family treats you like trash and compares you to the worst scum of history.
Perhaps it is time to point out that we really don't need this abuse. We've accomplished a great deal as a people in the last 60 years deespite the Chareidim, not because of them. Maybe we should wait for them to come to us?