Sunday, November 25, 2007

Who Rules Israeli Chareidi Judaism?

Some of the guest contributors at the right hand side of my blog often comment to me privately that my more interesting posts are those still "in draft mode" -- the ones I jot down, but never publish. It's not due to procrastination or laziness, but the post doesn't just "click".

Though I don't know if the following is one of those "best" posts, it comes as a response to the following YNET op/ed piece by a Chareidi Yeshiva student.

Last week, IDF Human Resources Directorate head Major General Elazar Stern joined those who have lashed out against the widespread "draft dodging" among the ultra-Orthodox.

Even though there is nothing new in the arguments, this time around, something did attract my attention, and I quote the Maj.-Gen. Stern: "The existence of the Haredi Nahal regiment refutes the claim that ultra-Orthodox life and the army cannot be combined. They have conditions there that are even better than Bnei Brak," Stern said, referring to a heavily Haredi town in central Israel, "they see no women, not even at a kilometer's distance. Now society must play its role and encourage (Haredi youths) to serve in the army."

I was almost convinced. But, there are problems with the magic solution Stern outlined: To the best of my knowledge, the Haredi Nahal was established as a rehabilitative setting for Haredi dropouts. And… success rates are not something to brag about. Stern should talk to the commanders about their painful failure before trying to convince more ultra-Orthodox to join in.

For us, enlisting means losing our moral code and values for which we are ready to die.

Stern and his likes, on the other hand, transform their values according to the latest trend. With the tiny Yarmulke on his head, Stern lectures us on what's right and wrong. There are too many parents in the ultra-Orthodox sector who sit Shiva for sons who died a spiritual death while serving in the army.

Stern also ignored other key issues that are crucial for an observant man: Kashrut, Shabbat, and the militaristic viewpoint that emphasizes physical strength over spiritual fortitude. So, dear Maj.-Gen., hear this:

When the IDF decides to follow the Torah's laws, my friends and I will gladly fulfill our duty – i.e. Bar Kokhba's army – until then, I'd rather die in the tents of Torah!
A few comments on this posting...

1. I have many issues with the IDF following their politicization during the Disengagement, and I am far from a ultra-idealist gung-ho believer in the IDF today. That said, I still volunteer.

2. The most correct statement above was that the Nahal Chareidi is viewed within Chareidi circles as the last bastion for Chareidi dropouts. It's better for a Chareidi kid to go off the derech or hang out all day in the center of Jerusalem (still wearing a kippa), than to go off to the treif army of the Zionists. (Clarification: The above statement is not my own view, but that of the general Chareidi community.)

3. No one dies in the tents of the Torah unless a bookcase falls on someone's head. That's probably the most offensive aspect of the editorial -- does the author honestly think he is promoting a Chareidi viewpoint by saying such things in YNET?

And now...the author is simply a fool to begin with, because he doesn't even know why it's "forbidden" to be in the treif zionist army. Which leads us to my posting below...

Warning: The posting is not directed against Gedolim or Chareidi Judaism. On the contrary, we love Gedolim and Chareidim...and admire their acts of chessed for the benefit of Klal Yisrael in Israel. This posting however addresses a sinister, much darker shade of black.

Mishpacha newspaper in Israel via RafiG reports:
The head of Human Resources in the IDF, major general Elazar Stern, has been working towards finding a solution for the situation with the yeshiva boys and kollel members who currently have their army service deferred, but then they cannot go to work (even if they want to leave kollel and begin working) until they fulfill their army obligations, which because of societal pressures (and other reasons) is difficult for them to do.

Stern has been working towards a solution in which he would exempt completely any and every yeshiva student. Any yeshiva student or kollel member who wants to study in yeshiva would receive a full exemption from the army. That's right - an exemption - not a deferment. And if one day student x or y decides he does not want to continue in kollel but wants to go join the workforce, he would be able to do so without having to be concerned about any obligations to the army.
For the record, Yossi Beilin from Meretz has been proposing to abolish the draft in Israel altogether, which would accomplish the same end result; Chareidim could avoid service in the IDF, attend college, get better jobs, pay more taxes, not be reliant on government stipends...

Good or Bad?

If you're a Chareidi politician, this is a doomsday scenario. Without forced reliance on government stipends and Chareidi politicial parties in Israel for their existance, Chareidim could "move up in the world" (if they so desired), and even vote for other parties.

Worse, the big fear is that many Chareidim in yeshiva today who ostensibly are learning in yeshiva because of "Toraso Umnaso" (Torah learning is their profession), and thereby avoiding the culturally unacceptable position of serving in the IDF or helping Israel via "National Service", would no longer stay in yeshiva. They would leave yeshiva to start working and/or study in college.

This would prove "The Emporer Has No Clothes" -- the reason so many Chareidim are in Yeshiva is to avoid the culturally unacceptable position of serving in the IDF or helping the "State" and far less to do with "Toraso Umnaso".

Don't shoot me -- I'm only the messenger -- Chareidi politicians admit it outright!
[Ultra Orthodox Shas Minister of Communications MK Ariel]Attias said to Stern, "your concern is not really for the yeshiva boys. It is for the general workforce. This is really an attempt to allow more people into the workforce and weaken the ranks of those studying Torah [by making it easy for them to leave yeshiva, not just making it easy to stay in yeshiva]. Of course the decision will be made by the gedolei yisrael, however we the representatives will recommend against this precedent to remove yeshiva boys from the world of Torah."
Who Rules Israeli Chareidi Judaism? Actually, my original title was Who Ruins Israeli Chareidi Judaism.

It's very simple: The Askanim and Chareidi Politicians.


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

17 comments:

Rafi G said...

hoot! hoot!

JoeSettler said...

I read the original article, and was left wondering.

I have never heard a bad word about the performance of Nachal Chareidi soldiers.

In fact, like Hesder soldiers, I've only heard the highest praise for their professionalism and dedication to keeping the Torah while fulfilling their IDF duties.

I've heard wonderful stories about a few "bad" kids turned around by a little healthy discipline, the quality social environment, and a set of goals that doesn't involve sleeping and smoking the day through shiurim (if they make it as far as the Yeshiva).

If he's heard bad stories about the boys, that's news to me (and more an indictment of where the boys came from, than the army environment they went to).

The Nachal Chareidi boys I've met had nothing but pride for what they do, even if their sector of society frowns down upon them and is ashamed of them.

If parents are "sitting shiva" for them for joining the army, I wonder what they are doing as they instead become batlanim on the corners of Rabbi Akiva St.

Olah Chadasha said...

Jameel, I agree with josettler. My husband was an officer in the Nahel Chareidi when it was still in its infancy, and he has since seen a complete 180 in the community's attitude toward the service. Firstly, the Nahel Chareidi has become an exceptional performing force of the IDF. Starting out as a joke, they have become a very professional and proficient arm of the IDF. They do very well.

Secondly, they have also become more and more accepted within the Chareidi community. My husband stays in regular contact with his soldiers, and the news he's hearing gives a lot of room for optimism. When it first began, yes, he would regularly hear from his soldiers that they were dead to their families and how they sat shiva. But, that's really changed. Here's the ultimate measure of success. Almost all of his soldiers were not only able to get Shiduchs but excellent ones, at that. On top of that, he's hearing more and more that serving in the Nahal has become a prime factor in getting the best Shiduchs. It's not looked down upon anymore. It's really gaining acceptance.

I don't really understand where this pessimism is coming from. The Nahal Chareidi is succeeding and showing a lot of positive results. I'm going to trust the soldiers on the ground, that have lived through it, more than I'm going to trust one anonymous Yeshiva student writing an op-ed. Unlike this person, the people my husband talk to have no agenda, political or otherwise, when they tell him what's going on.
-OC

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

OC; Perhaps I should clarify; my beef is not with the Nachal Chareidi. I think they are quality soldiers, and there are all sorts of reasons why people go there; ranging from chardal soldiers, to chareidi soldiers, to chareidi drop outs who want a better environment. The perception however in the Chareidi world is extremely negative towards soldiers in the Nachal Chareidi.

The thrust of my posting is that the IDF is considered treif in general by the Chareidi MKs and askanim, to the point that even if the mandatory "IDF drfat or learn in yeshiva issue" was comepltely abolished, the Chareidi world would vote AGAINST it, because it would mean that there would be no one forcing Chareidim to stay in yeshiva.

Ask a chareidi parent which they prefer? Their kid being a dropout in kikar hafrikim (but still with a black kippa on his head), or joining the Nachal Chareidi...

JoeSettler said...

There's a story in Bnei Brak about some kids that used to hang out at one of the local fistukim shops and smoke and whatever all day.

The storeowner took one of the kids, whom he thought was going in a very very bad direction, and gave him a job.

The parents were mortified.

They made the life of the storekeeper miserable in every way possible. So he fired the kid.

The kid then disappeared.

The parents then realized that the storekeeper was the only one keeping the kid in line (and at home), so they begged him to take the kid back.

Eventually, the kid came up for air, and he got his job back.

But the attitude is indicative of the problem.

Mike Miller said...

Ask a chareidi parent which they prefer? Their kid being a dropout in kikar hafrikim (but still with a black kippa on his head), or joining the Nachal Chareidi...

From my experience in my little barely-chareidi corner of the world called RBS...

I'd say many parents would prefer the second.

On the other hand, if you view both as treif, it seems more likely that a kid will be chozer b'tshuva from the first than the second. However, the numbers are so small either way... both cases would seem to be a tragedy to a parent who doesn't believe in either derech.

Mike Miller said...

Incidently, how do you conclude from this that the politicians control Chareidi Jewry? It would seem their Gedolim do; which is the official line. I see no evidence in the article (unlike in life...) that the tail is wagging the dog.

rockofgalilee said...

One point that was completely missed here is that Stern is leading the cry to dismantle all "same type of people" units like Nachal Hareidi and all-hesder units. He is trying to build more of the melting pot system.

He has no right to request people to join through one corner of his mouth and demand that it be disbanded through the other corner.

Lurker said...

When the IDF decides to follow the Torah's laws, my friends and I will gladly fulfill our duty -– i.e. Bar Kokhba's army -– until then, I'd rather die in the tents of Torah!

Jameel: No one dies in the tents of the Torah unless a bookcase falls on someone's head. That's probably the most offensive aspect of the editorial -- does the author honestly think he is promoting a Chareidi viewpoint by saying such things in YNET?

To "die in the tent of Torah" ("למות באוהלה של תורה") is a talmudic expression derived from a statement by Reish Lakish in TB Berakhot 63b.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Incidently, how do you conclude from this that the politicians control Chareidi Jewry? It would seem their Gedolim do; which is the official line.

Mike; Why in the world would a Godol who belives that the army is treif be UPSET if the law was changed and there was no draft?

Every Chareidi yeshiva student knows that the raison de etre of "not going to the IDF" is that the IDF is treif. It has nothing to do with Nachal Chareidi, women in the army, or if the food is Badatz or mehadrin -- it has to do with the army being assur, period.

It boggles the mind that a Chareidi poltician would freely admit that the emperor has no clothes and the only reason the army is treif is because politicians want their people to STAY in yeshivot.

Whats worse is WHY they want their students in school; they can't get jobs, they stay poor, and that keeps their politicians and askanim in power.

Yet they glibly say, "it's the gedolim who make our decisions" -- but it's quite obvious who is leading whom.

RR said...

"This is really an attempt to allow more people into the workforce"

How unbelievably sad that Attias et al see this as a BAD thing. More men not working means more children growing up with inadequate nutrition, among other things.

But apparently politics trumps all! No wonder I have such disdain for politicians (not only haredi ones).

Anonymous said...

Good post Jameel.

Yellow Boy

Anonymous said...

It's well known that R' Aharon Shteinman is in favor of army service for those who don't succeed in yeshiva study. Can you name me a more respected charedi authority than R' Shteinman? OK, R' Eliashiv. Can you name me another? I don't think there is one.

Face it, there is disagreement in the chareidi world about army service, and most of the people who take one side can see the logic in the other side. That is common knowledge, Jameel, but it seems to have bypassed you.

Jameel: May I ask if there are any charedim in the community in which you live?

elchonon said...

Define chareidi? Chabadnikim serve... and at the rate of the secular deferments I bet Lubavitchers serve more!

The army is actualy like bar kochba after he sinned "kochi ub'otzrm yadi asa li et hachayil hazeh"

You still have not addressed the soldiers jailed for requesting shemita k'halacha, the golani soldiers arrested for wearing their tzitzis out, the soldier told to step on a bag only to find a talit there..

What the heck is this? Fonya's army ? (a play on Vonya Gonif which is what a cosack was called)

Mesiras nefesh to keep torah and mitzvos in the Israeli Army ? are you out of your mind ?!?!

Sure you gotta eat on yom kipur and drive on shabbat but that pikuach nefesh.. we are talking cases of regular day to day life..

And when a soldier demands no kitniyot food on pesach 464637657 scream "who the heck do you think you are?!?! eat like everyone else!"

I have no problem eating garbage.. but my garbage better have the hechsher I want.. theres no pikuach nefesh here.. the army can do it they just dont want to.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous said...
It's well known that R' Aharon Shteinman is in favor of army service for those who don't succeed in yeshiva study. Can you name me a more respected charedi authority than R' Shteinman? OK, R' Eliashiv. Can you name me another? I don't think there is one.


I think you missed the point. It would be wonderful if gedolim would be in favor of a law which abolished the draft! My point is that the Chareidi politicians are trying to convince the gedolim otherwise.

Face it, there is disagreement in the chareidi world about army service, and most of the people who take one side can see the logic in the other side. That is common knowledge, Jameel, but it seems to have bypassed you.

Why do you think the logic "passed me by" -- I have no qualms with the Nachal Chareidi, not do I have a problem with people who want to learn in yeshiva. However, for Chareidi MKs to force people to learn in yeshiva by keeping the law in effect that you either "go to the IDF or learn in yeshiva and therefore have no chance of going to university" -- I find THAT abhorrent. Let people decide for themselves -- dont force them into hashkafic molds via Israeli law.

Jameel: May I ask if there are any charedim in the community in which you live?

I know many Chareidim who serve...and don't.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Elchonon: You need to be a bit more coherent :-)

What's your point? That there are a ton of problems in the IDF? I agree with you. Can you eat Badatz in the IDF? Yes. You can even avoid kitniyot in the Nachal Chareidi.

Olah Chadasha said...

Yes, Elchonon, you seem to be making accusations without actually bringing proof to back it up. Then, you talk about the Army not wanting to follow "halacha". I put halacha in quotes, because I need to ask "halacha" according to whom? When you speak of "shmita k'halacha", what are you referring to? There is a chief Rabbi of the Army, and they have decided which hashkafa to follow and then attempt to accommodate, as much as possible, those that go by stricter Chumras.

As Jameel said, there are a ton of problems in the IDF. As I know it, observing halacha isn't one of them. Even if what you're saying about what happened in Golani is true, so what? First off, it seems typical Golani behavior. They're messed up. Secondly, since when is wearing your tzizit out our of your clothes "halacha"? How is telling someone to wear their tzizit inside a violation of halacha or a violation of someone's "frumness"? No-one in the Army is ever told they're not allowed to wear tzizit! These are simple questions that should be once again prefaced with the necessity on your part of bring proof of these incidents.

Next, this stepping on the bag incident, did the one doing the ordering know there was a tallit inside? You make it sound as if there was malicious intent without giving any CONTEXT!

Elchonen, are you even aware of the percentage of religious Sadirnikim and Meiliumnikim that serve in the Army? How about religious officers? You make it sound as if one cannot be religious in the Army, or that one has to compromise their religiosity in order to serve. Nothing could be further from the truth, and you insult every religious person that has or is currently serving.

By your "examples", you are insinuating that those that are serving in the Army that claim to be religious really aren't observant.

Finally, I have to ask the relevant question of whether you served?
-OC

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