Sunday, April 14, 2013
A Better Haredi Draft Proposal
A huge controversy in Israel involves drafting and military service for the Haredim, very Orthodox Jewish Israelis who are largely not subjected to Israel's universal conscription and get exemptions for Torah studies.
At this point, the number of exemptions is skyrocketing, that number is only likely to grow and many of the more secular Israelis are increasingly resentful, even though many Haredim now serve in all Haredi units like Nahal that conform to their religious practices, such as not serving with women.
Rabbi Yehuda Sussman came up with a creative idea in today's Jerusalem Post - essentially, he wants to make Torah study the equivalent of military service.
Under his proposal, Yeshiva students students who of military age will have their Torah study take place in uniform as the IDF conscripts.
There would be a separate Yeshiva Corps, housed in Army bases and subject to military discipline for four years, and 'conscripts' would swear allegiance to the State and receive all the benefits and pay of soldiers of their rank and seniority in the IDF. This service would thus phase out Torato umnato grants (government subsidies given to full time Torah students with a military exemption)and thus be cost effective.
Respectfully, I think Rabbi Sussman has a good idea, and is halfway towards a solution.
The problem is that what a lot of Israelis resent is not just the financial cost of the subsidies and exemptions but that many of the Haredim are not risking their lives in battle the way the sons and daughters of other Israelis are.
So I would amend his plan in one important regard.
Give the Haredim full military training along with their Torah study. And let them be part of the reserves after their military service is over.
G-d commanded Israel to destroy Amalek and his descendants, after all, and a host of warriors dedicated to defending Zion and carrying out G-d's commandments would be a credit both to them and to Israel.
It would eliminate, for the most part, this divide in Israeli society and make it a non-issue.
Rabbi Sussman makes the point that credit for military service will also help the haredim's integration into the civilian workforce. He's undoubtedly correct. Aside from job skills that are acquired, one of the first questions in a typical Israeli job interview is to ask 'where did you serve'?
Unfortunately,as certain units become known to be non-combat units participating in Torah study and not much else, there will still be a stigma.
Teach the Haredim in these units to defend Zion, use them in war and that stigma will disappear.Not only will this create new understanding, acceptance and appreciation of the Haredim by the rest of Israeli society, it will do the same for the Haredim when it comes to their fellow Israelis.
I think that elite Haredi units that study Torah and become supreme warriors - in effect Jewish Warrior monks, Hebrew Shao-lin - at the same time is a winner, both on and off the battlefield.