Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Monday, 8 April 2013

Doing It Without Hatred

As plans slowly move forward to implement a universal army draft in Israel it's interesting to watch two definitive sides form in response.
One side is that of the Chareidi leadership and its PR folks.  Their response has been vigorous, viscious and self-righteous in the extreme.  We are repeatedly reminded by them that it is the Torah study of the tens of thousands of kolleleit that is the true defense of the State and that we, their spiritual inferiors, should be grateful instead of sitting around in our dank and dark basements all day scheming on how to destroy the Torah world.  For this group there is one answer: no draft, no service, no acknowledgement of the importance of contributing to the State.
On the other side is an equally irrational group, one that would like to see Israeli police and soldiers transformed into Imperial storm troopers and tasked with the mission of dragging Chareidi men from their shtenders by their peyos and throwing them into a dungeon somewhere for daring to not want to be drafted.  For this group there is only one answer as well: a total, immediately draft of all eligible Chareidim and long prison sentences for those that resist.
These two extreme positions have come to dominate the public debate and this is a terrible shame since there is an obvious path of compromise, one which the government has been working on.  But, as is often the case when someone tries to accommodate a middle path, the folks attempting to solve the problem in this fashion are either ignored or set upon by both sides.
If one dares to suggest that setting up the universal draft will take time, maybe a few years, one is attacked by the Chareidi leadership for daring to suggest there should be a universal draft at all.  One is also attacked by the extreme secularists for choosing a plan that does not involve immediately implementation.  How dare we give those lazy bums any further time off?
Let us consider what is at stake.  First, there is the practical.  The Israeli army, far from intending to use a draft to wipe out the Jewishness of its Chareidi conscripts, is bending over backwards to help those Chareidim who have already enlisted, maintain an observant lifestyle when it comes to food, learning and mixed gender environments.  There is no question that, should the universal draft be implemented, they will continue to want to make these accommodations.  It will be hard enough to absorb the increased numbers of recruits without doing things that will bring their passive-aggressive nature to the fore.
But changes like this require time.  A large number of Chareidim, angry and resentful, entering the army at the same time and finding inadequate facilities appropriate to their spiritual needs, will create a disaster for the army.  Tzahal needs time to build the infrastructure it will need.  An immediate universal draft denies them this opportunity.
There is also Chareidi psychology to consider.  The Chareidi leadership, stuck as it is mentally in the 1920's, still really does see the secular Zionist community as consumed with hatred of Torah and nothing better to do with its time than attack Chareidim and try to spiritually destroy them.  This is the message that has been passed on to students within the Chareidi educational system for three generations now.  Is it any wonder that Chareidi kolleleit ignore the "share the burden" message and instead see a scheme to destroy their Yiddishkeit?  And since this is the case, is it any wonder that they vehemently resist the universal draft?
Now it should be acknowledged that there is a glimmer of hope, at least from the Chareidi side.  Rav Yonasan Rosenblum, one of the more eloquent Chareidi PR folks who also possesses a measure of insight lacking in many others in that group, has even recently written the unthinkable:

we might be approaching the end of a miraculous period in which the secular Israeli government became the prime supporter of Torah learning on a scale unprecedented in Jewish history
An excellent confession but one that sadly is decades overdue given the extensive time over which generations of Chareidi youth and baalei teshuvah have been taught that the secular Israeli government is the greatest threat to Torah learning since the Czar.  Rav Rosenblum may have realized that reality is the opposite of that Chareidi doctrine but he will have difficulty convinced his comrades.
In summary we must hope and pray that the folks in the government managing this transition in Israeli society and Tzahal have the patience and wisdom to ignore the extremists on both sides and create an environment in which Chareidi men can now contribute to Israeli society's security without having to compromise their level of observance.


Moshe Laymore said...

Just so that we are all on the same page I want to point out that the overwhelming majority of Israeli chareidim have never heard of Rav Yonasan Rosenblum and couldn't care less about what he says.

Jenny said...

I think that you have a case of Thomas Friedman - itis. In your effort to appear even-handed, you have created two polar opposites and are looking for someone in the middle. While most of the Haredi leadership (at least the vocal leadership) is in this extreme camp, I think you will be hard-pressed to find an Israeli political leader who wishes to enact a draft (and prison sentences!) as you describe it. This post is about the Haredi world and response. You muddle it when you look for equivalency.