I don’t know why the ultra-Orthodox leadership is so adamant about not having yeshiva boys go to the army at age 18 like the rest of the Jewish men in this country.
It’s not like they can’t go to the yeshivas after they’ve completed their service, is it? Why do the rabbis insist, upon pain of death, that not one young haredi man serve in the IDF or perform national service at age 18, age 22, or any age whatsoever? Is it because if they give up on their young men, the world, which, as they say, is built on Torah study, will suddenly collapse?
Nobody is talking about not allowing young haredi men to study Torah – what is being discussed is letting them study Torah in a yeshiva starting from age 21, after their mandatory 3 years of army service. These boys have the rest of their lives ahead of them to study the Torah, so why are the rabbis so adamant to keep them in yeshivas from age 18?
Is it because most haredi boys marry and start families between the ages of 18-21? Perhaps. Is it because serving in the “Zionist” army is considered sacrilege? Perhaps.
But what’s wrong with performing national service? What’s wrong with being a firefighter, a policeman, a prison warden? Why are non-haredi young men forced to serve for three years instead of going to study at a university, while haredi men get an automatic pass to study Torah at age 18? It seems unfair, doesn’t it?
The haredim counter that Torah study is just as much of a service for the nation and the Jewish people as army service is. Could be, may be, who knows?
But what’s that got to do with studying Torah at 18, or 21? Are the three years that young haredi men don’t study Torah really going to bring about the end of the world? Surely there are enough religious men to fill in the gap of the several thousand haredi 18-year-olds who won’t be in the yeshivas for three years? And wouldn’t a 21-year-old haredi man make a better Torah student than a wet-behind-the-ear 18 year old?
Is the whole fight really over three years? No, of course it isn’t. It’s about the principle; THE principle, that is to say, that the ultra-Orthodox population considers itself removed from the living, breathing State of Israel. Removed from its authority, removed from its laws, removed from its culture and norms. There are no judges in Jerusalem, there are only rabbis. There is no Supreme Court, there is only the Rabbinic Court. There are no military officers; there is no army of men; there is only the army of God, the Torah; the Pillar of Fire.
The haredim are removed from the state, and they want to remain removed. They are removed from the state, and they want to be left alone.
But here’s the rub: they are removed from the state, but they live off its coffers. They are removed from the state, but they are protected by its army, police, and firefighters. They are removed from the state but they expect the rest of us to finance their way of life. And that, my friends, is just not going to happen anymore.
You want to be left alone? Fine. Pay your own way.