Haredi Chutzpah

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.

0 thoughts on “Haredi Chutzpah

  1. How many charedim have you spoken to or interviewed before you drew your conclusions? Have you made an honest effort to understand their position (even if it is ultimately untenable)? If you haven’t made that effort, you’ve done nothing here beyond adopting a populist stance that doesn’t appear to convey the slightest understanding of a complex political and social issue.

    1. Avi, I have heard the arguments and counter arguments, and I can say unequivocally, I don’t buy it. There is nothing complex about inequality. There is nothing complex about injustice. it’s simple, black and white: you can live your life any way you want to, as long as you doing so doesn’t impede me from living my life as I want to. You don’t serve in the army and you don’t work – means you impact my life directly. Simple inequality. It’s not populist, it’s real.

      1. sorry, Amir, but I’ll re-state my question: Who have you heard these arguments and counter arguments from? Yossi Sarid? From pseudo-spokesmen in the Haredi world who represent nobody but themselves? Or have you spent time with American haredim in Ramat Bet Shemesh, Belzer hassidim in Ashdod, or students at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem to get their thoughts on the matter? When you speak to Haredim (or, at least, when I’ve spoken to them, which is often), the image I’ve come away with is a mortal fear that observant boys will enter the army and non-observant young men will complete their service 3 years later. (To be fair, this is not radically different than the many, many secular Israelis who live in mortal fear that their children will become haredi. But I digress…).

        The current situation exists because Israeli governments for the past 64 years have allowed it to exist. It exists because IDF commanders lie awake at night worried that they might find 20,000 boys from Bnei Brak at BAKUM the next day. It exists because, despite your chagrin (and, quite frankly, mine as well), no non-haredi leader in Israeli history has had the courage to stand up to the haredi world.

        it’s a rather simple equation, I’d have thought: Having a whole community on the national dole is a comfortable situation. It is hard to think of any community that would willingly forego the current arrangement the haredim have. I believe you’d be better off pointing the finger at three generations of Labour and Likud governments for allowing the situation to exist, not at the haredim for accepting the deal. For all these reasons, your assertion that “it’s not going to happen anymore” is simply incorrect.

    2. Avi, as Amir said in the blog, if haredim in the military is a problem, they can provide another form of national service.

      And I don’t see where Amir is faulting the haredim alone, he’s pointing a finger at the current system – and by implication everyone that brought us and/or keeps us where we are now.

      As for something happening, as the percentage of haredim in Israel has gone from 10% of Israel’s population to 35%, the situation has become critical. Demographics make a revision of current policies a certainty, it’s just a case of when. Certainly it can’t wait until the haredim are a majority, every one else who can will leave (rather than support the haredim), and Israel will be left without a defense.

    3. Avi, actually the reality is changing. Haredi labor force participation rate is on the rise and birth rates are on the decline. All this populist, opportunist, fear mongering Haredi bashing is based on politicians analyzing demographic data that don’t realize that the trend has peaked.

      Haredim serving or not serving is political bait and switch 101. Nobody really wants the Haredim to serve, not the army (whose secular character will be threatened), not the government (who likes to keep this ace in the hole hot) and not the Haredim (who mostly want to be left alone by this “zionist entity” that sprung up around them)

      I say its high time the rabbis called this political bluff and pushed the chips all in. If 20,000 Yeshiva students showed up to get drafted and demanding food that is really Kosher and an environment of tsniut where women are not purposely objectified. The army and government would fall all over themselves to exempt them.

      As to the rant about taking from the public coffers. Are you in the habit of turning down free money when offered? I know im not. The Haredim don’t receive any more benefits than any other citizen is entitled to. Welfare is welfare.

  2. I am waiting for a similar article about eligible Arabs who can serve- who number WAYYY more than the chareidim and who receive all the same government benefits… is there a specific date we can expect such an article?

  3. Avi, who gives a damn what the explanation is? There apparently is no explanation for other Israelis who have to serve and don’t get an excuse, so why should the Haredim get an excuse? Because of “God”?

    It’s time that people stopped dressing in 18th and 19th century clothing from a cold country in a hot, Middle Eastern, country, stopped living in some sort of dream world cult bubble, and join the rest of civilization in the 21st century.

    There’s nothing “complicated” about it.

    1. Nice one, Summerseale. So the isssue, as you’ve stated it, is not totally a desire for equality. You want to change haredim and the haredi world. Why in the world would they voluntarily submit themselves and their children to that?

    2. They can dress any way they want, it’s not for you to decide.

      Who appointed you the clothing police? Would you tell goths not to wear black, and teens not to dye their hair blue? Or are you making decisions only for the haredi?

      That said, Amir is right in his column on all points.

  4. I agree 100% with the measure to stop with national support to Haredim or any Ultra-Orthodox branch of Judaism that refuses to serve the country just like any normal citizen, but so it should be done to Israeli Arabs,
    who get State welfare and contribute nothing for the common good of the State.

  5. The Haredim are a very important force, they insure the survival of Judaism with a Pact with the Devil. reduce their finances and tell them their duty to Guru Yahweh is complete. they are free.

    1. That’s a shame even to mention that the future survival of Judaism is insured by people who have an anthropomorphic idea of HaShem. What is this of “Guru Yahweh?” IMHO, it is even a disrespectful reference to Adonai.

      And now, with regards to a pact with the devil, I thought for a second that I was reading something Christian. As far as I am concerned, there is no such a thing as devil, which according to Judaism is only a concept to illustrate the evil inclination in man. We don’t make pacts with concepts. It is an embarrassment to
      to hear of such thoughts amongs Jews.

  6. Haredim served in 1948. Some hasidim even served when I was in the IDF in the early 70s. There is absolutely no excuse for people to be ochlei lehem hesed. You want benefits? Serve! Shabbat Shalom (that’s Gut Shabbos or Git Shabbes, as you wish).

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