Tefilas Tal – Last Chance for Israeli Society
- As the Tal law exempting religious (“Chareidi”) Jews in Israel from military service finally expires amid confusion as to what will succeed it, I declare an interest. My younger son is a strictly-orthodox Jew: he follows the Code of Jewish Law as meticulously as anyone in the Chareidi community, and his rabbis are as pious and learned as anyone in the Chareidi community. He emigrated to Israel last summer and has already been signed up for military service, although he could have avoided it pretty much forever had he chosen to.
- But my son prefers to be able to look himself in the face in the morning than to avoid army service.
- If you live in a country where the borders need guarding, then you take your turn in guarding them: otherwise, what are you but a coward and a parasite, living off the efforts of others?
- The argument that one often hears – that by studying in yeshivah a boy does more to invoke divine protection of Israel than any soldier can achieve – holds good for a tiny minority of boys who are such devoted and successful scholars that not one man or woman in Israel would wish to disturb their studies, or would think them more useful in the army than in the yeshivah. By definition, however, these boys will have the humility not to see themselves as anything special, and they will wish to take their turn in the army along with everyone else, and will have to be restrained.
- Anyone who protests that he is too good or too holy for the army proves the falseness of the proposition by making it.
- As to the suggestion that army life will corrupt boys, it is either complete nonsense or a horrendous indictment of the Chareidi educational system that needs to be corrected whether or not their boys go into the army.
- Israel has stumbled by blind degrees into a situation that would now be farcical if it were not so tragic. Boys hiding behind their religous books in order to evade army service don’t damage the army, but they threaten the nature and future of Israel as a Jewish State, which can be justified only when all Jews present a united front, held together by love and respect for each other, with our cultural and religious differences simply enhancing our overall unity.
- If I were a non-religious Israeli today I would hate Judaism. I would look at the many tens of thousands of Jews who tell each other how superior they are to me, and live a life characterised by cowardice. I would see the orthodox boys who come from abroad to learn in yeshivah, and whose wives become immigrants in order to collect welfare benefits while they themselves remain foreign-nationals in order to evade army service; and I would be disgusted with them, with their rabbis who allow it, and with their God in whose name it is done.
- The crisis over the Tal law has little or nothing to do with the army, but it has everything to do with the health of the nation. For those of us who believe that God protects Israel and the Jewish people only while they deserve protection, finding a solution that allows the Chareidi world to recover its self-respect by playing a full and equal part in society is the last chance.