More on the Charedi Draft

I had this as a comment to Rabbi Landesman’s post, but Rabbi Adlerstein encouraged me to elevate it to a post unto itself. He did say that Rabbi Landesman may go “a second round” as well — so let me say now that much as I might wish to continue, it is already known in the Menken house that my study, which is the one room that is my sole responsibility to clean, is also the last to be ready for bedikas chametz. Should Rabbi Landesman wish to have it, I’ll have to surrender the last word.

Nonetheless, what Rabbi Landesman appears to have overlooked is that the problem of the day is neither motzi dibat ha’Aretz nor motzi dibat ha-medinah, but rather, motzi dibat ha-haredim l’dvar HaShem, the bad-mouthing of the Charedim who, on advice of their Gedolim, continue not to go into the Army. Rabbi Landesman seems to level no criticism against those who reside outside our world yet critique it (often in the most bizarre fashion) at every occasion, including the present one — on the contrary, he only seems to find fault with those of us in Chutz L’Aretz who presume to defend the position of the Gedolim (and the members of the Moetzos in question, at last count, do all reside in Eretz Yisrael).

Based on interaction between Rabbi Landesman and myself, I believe it reasonable to conclude that, in both appearance and in fact, I was one of those criticized for playing armchair quarterback — residing in Chutz L’Aretz (a decision made due to the needs of my Kiruv work) yet commenting upon situations in Israel based upon “hearsay evidence, isolated incidents or the agenda driven reporting of the chareidi and non-chareidi press.”

I’m sure Rabbi Landesman recalls that he and I disagreed on the situation in Emanuel — up until the government sent a Yemenite Rabbi to jail for racism and the farce of the entire enterprise was revealed. By that time, the sources for my research and the first-person accounts were well known. In this case, let me just say that Rabbi Landesman does not know my sources, what I know, or how I know it — but none of “hearsay,” “isolated incidents” or “agenda-driven reporting” apply.

Rabbi Landesman writes that he is “deeply troubled by the total self-denial characteristic of many elements in the yeshiva world that we – the chareidi world of which I consider myself a member in good standing – may well be at least partially at fault for the success of Yair Lapid and his cohorts.” I’m going to return to something I wrote in reply to Rabbi Landesman almost precisely four years ago:

One thing I can tell you with certainty: we are not viewed with antipathy because of our failures; we are viewed with antipathy because of our successes. How do I know? Simple: 25 years ago, today’s problems were barely on the radar, yet the antipathy was much the same. If anything has changed, it is that the Chinuch Atzmai schools are blossoming, attracting ever more non-religious Israeli families to “abandon” the secular system. It is that the Rabbi of the Western Wall is now able to preserve Jewish practice at our holiest site. It is that the number of those serving the Jewish people in the halls of a yeshiva rather than on a military base increases every year, rather than dying on the vine as the Zionists expected (Despite the Charedi Nachal units, with their apparently very positive history of discipline and performance).

The supporters of Lapid are not a new breed. His father, Shulamit Aloni, and others were decrying charedi parasites a generation ago. And people of good will in both the IDF and the charedi community were trying to find a mutually-acceptable solution — thus the start of Nahal Charedi, despite all its problems and rough patches.

We seem to agree that Nachal was designed with “young men who did not find their place in the olam hayeshivot” in mind. A close relative (whose son contemplated joining Nachal) put it that the program attracts the same sort of yeshiva dropouts being supported by yeshiva-work and other study programs in America which help yeshiva boys to not drop out completely. This matches closely an article in Times of Israel which appeared after several MKs invited a cluster of reporters to observe the “largest-yet draft of ultra-Orthodox soldiers.” The reporter dryly observed that “those glimpsed entering the base… did not appear to have left a very observant yeshiva in the recent past” [the accompanying photo explains nicely], and quoted another as having told the MKs that “The army is running a program that brings (wayward ultra-Orthodox) back into a fold, and that’s very nice, but there were no ultra-Orthodox drafted today.”

I know where I’ve done my research, and where I haven’t. But it is my understanding that the past draft to which Rabbi Landesman refers, “wherein Netzach was forced to create a second battalion,” preceded the current draft law, which only passed a month ago. [UPDATE: I wrote this hurriedly on Friday, and didn’t have time to find what I’d recalled seeing. Joe Hill’s comment links to an article on YNet which flatly contradicts the statement that “Netzach continues to grow despite the brouhaha.”] But even so, we seem to be in agreement that due to rough language and other influences, even the Nachal Charedi program is not a great environment for “good” yeshiva boys.

Has there been another Kol Isha incident, of the kind that caused the Chief Rabbi of the IAF, Lt. Moshe Ravad, to resign from the Shachar IAF program due to its broken promises? Perhaps not. But Tzippy Diskind Yarom has documented thirteen recent incidents which, in her words, indicate that “the Army is not prepared for Charedim, does not want Charedim, and does not want them [to be] Charedim.” The list has been translated by Israel Matzav, and I suggest a careful perusal by anyone who believes I was relying upon hearsay or isolated incidents. Soldiers of Nachal Charedi were taken to observe a baptism and an all-day “educational seminar” in a church, placed in courses with women, and required to choose between making a kitchen kosher on their own time or eating treif. And in a throw-back to the good old days, several had their payos shaven off. Would Rabbi Landesman honestly have us believe that these are merely “problems” opposite “a great deal of good will and desire to remove all of the obstacles?”

All of the above explains the position of the Gedolim that, as HaRav Aharon Feldman shlit”a stated, IDF service is at present a situation of spiritual pikuach nefesh. I suppose his words, as well, could be set aside as those of a “chutz-nik,” as he is now the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel and member of the American Moetzes following some 5 decades in Israel — but I don’t think his words should be so cavalierly dismissed.

There were, and remain, many opportunities for measured and intelligent change — all of which cannot happen while under fire. There was agreement from the Gedolim that they could understand the State reducing financial support of yeshivos, but not criminalization of students. Shaked herself did not want the criminalization clause, outside experts on our community warned it would be counter-productive, and Lapid quite deliberately declared war against the idea of students sitting in yeshiva. Let’s agree that is what he did. Before you have a treaty, you have to have a cease-fire, and right now Lapid is up on the ramparts with guns blazing.

I’d like to polish this further, but Shabbos is also too close at hand!

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14 Responses

  1. Dovid Kornreich says:

    I believe posts like these explaining the chareidi opposition to the draft of yeshivah students is much more productive than the approach of Rabbis Hoffman and Beckerman.

    With all due respect to the writers on Cross-Currents, people from outside our worldview will not appreciate the tremendous value we give to limud HaTorah for its own sake. But they will appreciate the fact that we have a duty to preserve our core values and identity.

    We need only to document the statements and actions of the IDF and the political establishment which clearly show two things: 1) the draft of yeshivah students is more about ideology than actual defense of the country, and 2)Joining the the army in its current state poses an existential threat to one’s chareidi identity.

    I believe focusing on these 2 points again and again with clear documentation and NOT the concept that “learning Torah protects as much as an army” will prove to be a much more effective P.R. strategy.

  2. Eliyahu says:

    From Arutz7 website on the day after the draft vote:
    When Members of Knesset vote Wednesday on the question of hareidi army enlistment, the real issue they decide will be a far deeper one, Finance Minister Yair Lapid declared Tuesday. “What are we voting on tomorrow? Not just hareidi enlistment, or hareidi men joining the workforce. First and foremost, we’re voting on the question of who decides,” Lapid said. “We’ll vote for the idea that the state has the right, and the obligation, to determine its future, and that it does not need to ask for anybody’s permission,” he continued. “We’ll vote for the fact that we can still be one country, one society, with one founding principle.” The other choice, he warned, is “a multi-cultural circus where every interest group can come tell us, `I’m not playing, your rules don’t apply to me, your principles don’t obligate me, we’re prepared to accept the benefits but we won’t consider taking on the responsibilities.'” “On the other hand,” he continued, “is the realization that Zionism has returned, and isn’t ashamed of its role as a melting pot equal to the sum of its part, and isn’t ashamed to stand up for its principles… which obligate everyone, even those who don’t like them.”

  3. Micah Segelman says:

    RDL: “I cannot fathom how prominent rebbes and roshei yeshiva publicly declare that no-one – learning or not learning – will serve, and reinforce their positions by raising images of Cantonistim while spewing rhetoric about g’zeirot shmad.”

    RYM: “There was agreement from the Gedolim that they could understand the State reducing financial support of yeshivos, but not criminalization of students.”

    RDL is painting a picture of an uncompromising Haredi leadership using hostile rhetoric while RYM paints a picture of a moderate, pragmatic Haredi leadership troubled only by one part of the draft law. Is harsh (and even hateful) rhetoric in fact being used? If so, even in light of the incarceration clause, how can such rhetoric be justified? And, equally important, is it truly the case that this rhetoric is purely the product of the incarceration clause and didn’t exist before then?

  4. Dov S. Pam says:

    Doesn’t every Charadi draftee have the alternative option of doing Sheirut Leumi? Isn’t that a better option anyway?
    Instead of further dragging down the debate, uplift it, by saying:

    Given all of this, we as a community have the alternative and excellent opportunity for every putative draftee to do Sheirut Leumi, an option that not only defuses much of the tension between the Charedi and secular communities, also provides the draftee with the opportunity to give back to their community, learn life long lessons and skills, get paid (albeit minimally) for doing chesed, and most importantly, provide each and every draftee the opportunity to make a monumental kiddush Hashem that is viewable and understandable by the secular community….

    [Sherut Leumi would certainly avoid many of the problems with mandatory military service, permitting those not continuing in yeshiva to “share the burden” while not compromising their religious values. But to my knowledge no one in the government considered this a suitable way to address the Supreme Court setting aside the Tal Law. –YM]

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that one can find anecdotal evidence that either finds the IDF supportive or hostile to the needs of Charedim. The real issue is that not everyone should serve and not everyone should be learning 24/7, especially if a particular Talmid or Avrech shows no or little promise to be a potential Talmid Chacham.

    The question remains whether the Charedi leadership, especially those leaders who view IDF service to be avoided at all costs, can sit down , not just with the IDF, but with their fellow Jews and at least concur that there is at least some sense of mutual appreciation of the actions , accomplishments and needs of other Jews whose hashkafic perspectives are different.

  6. cvmay says:

    A few points to add: 1) There are national service options available instead of IDF enlistment, they are not called Sherut Leumi rather National Service. 2)Criminalization for disobedience of a law is a harsh consequence YET if the punishment is only punitive then any young man/woman can pay the punitive fee for not enlisting.

  7. Nachum says:

    “the alternative option of doing Sheirut Leumi”

    So non-charedi young men can risk their lives and die, while charedi young men- based purely on the community to which the profess to belong, nothing else- won’t? Is that just?

    “not everyone should serve and not everyone should be learning 24/7”

    I’m not sure this is true- halakha would certainly disagree- but even if it is, the basic question remains: Is this to be determined purely based on what color head covering one wears? Is that just?

  8. dovid landesman says:

    “What Rabbi Landesman appears to have overlooked is that the problem of the day is neither motzi dibat ha’Aretz nor motzi dibat ha-medinah, but rather, motzi dibat ha-haredim l’dvar HaShem.”

    I stand guilty as accused, but I do wonder why Rabbi Menkin chooses to question my motives in overlooking the real [and perceived as per Rabbi Adlerstein’s post] hatred for chareidim within Israeli society. As I have explained on any number of occasions, I write about the community with which I identify and in the meantime that is the chareidi community. I have little expectations for fairness and understanding in the chiloni media. I do however expect the chareidi spokesmen – whether they be politicians, editorialists or spokesmen of rabbanim – to show fealty to emet and to lashon nekiah. When the accepted representative of one of the gedolai roshei ha-yeshiva publicly speaks about creating k’vutzot mitabdim to protest the draft law, I condemn him for his rhetoric and all that it implies! When a large and well known chareidi organization sponsors a demonstration with children wearing striped pajamas with a yellow magen david and when their signed pashkevilim compare the doctors of Hadassha to Mengele, I will publicly condemn them in the most forceful manner. Will you join me Rabbi Menkin?

    Perhaps I was too harsh in my implied criticism of Rabbi Menkin but the kind of proofs that he cites in support of his position [the Chinuch Atzmai schools are blossoming, attracting ever more non-religious Israeli families to “abandon” the secular system] seem to suggest that he is getting his data from propogandists and p.r. materials. Yes, the chiloni school system in Israel is shrinking – but the reasons are demographic rather than qualitative.

    I remain deeply disturbed by the methods that are being used to protest a draft law that will in the end prove to be self-defeating. I wonder if those responsible for the violent riots “spontaneously” erupting when a young man is incarcerated for failure to register [in violation of the specific instructions of Rav Aron Leib and Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlitah] are acting out of the desire to be m’kadesh shamayim or are have a more sinister agenda to broaden their power base. I would hesitate to laud a young man taken into custody for driving without a license [and the police discover when his name is run through the computer that he is listed as a deserter because he never registered] as ashreichem shenitfastem al divrei Torah [fortunate are you for having been caught for Torah].

    Chag kasher vesameach.

  9. Yaakov Menken says:

    A few issues, briefly written, regarding Rabbi Landesman’s reply. Who said anything about “chiloni media?” I referred to “those who reside outside our world yet critique it (often in the most bizarre fashion) at every occasion,” who have arisen to speak evil about those who listen to the Gedolim on this occasion as well. Rabbi Landesman would prefer to talk about what a tiny subset of charedi society did over two years ago than address the problems of the moment.

    The chiloni school system is shrinking, and HaMaayan is expanding. It should be obvious that not only demographics (or propaganda) are responsible.

    I wonder what source Rabbi Landesman has for his claim about “violent riots,” much less questioning the “sinister agenda” of those who organized them. The Jerusalem Post reports precisely the opposite — the demonstrations regarding the incarceration were “largely peaceful,” “little violence was reported,” and, indeed, “the organizers of the demonstrations instructed protesters not to violently confront the police.”

    The myth that all charedi demonstrations are “violent” is a common one, and not one that any person, charedi or not, should endorse when it’s simply not so.

    Nor have I seen any report that the young man was driving, with or without a license. He was intoxicated, and was not jailed for DUI but for failing to register. And he certainly was not acting “in violation” of anyone’s instructions — he followed his Rav, as he clearly stated, refusing to get involved with an argument between outstanding Talmidei Chachamim. Whether or not we would agree the consensus of Gedolim should be followed, I do wonder from where Rabbi Landesman gets these facts that seem to run contrary to all reports.

  10. dovid landesman says:

    Rabbi Menken:

    Ordinarily I would allow things to rest, for we obviously have viewpoints that are so far apart that there is little to be gained by airing them publicly. However, your reply only strengthens my conviction that you are quite uninformed about the realities of what is going on and I think it is important that your readers see another side. You discount my condemning an organization that consistently crosses the lines of what I would call civilized protest “as a tiny subset of chareidi society”! Please! Even I have more respect for the Eidah than that and the demonstration to which I made reference as well as the pashkivilim were sponsored by that august body. Again, Rabbi Menken, will you join my condemnation?

    Ha-Mayan to which you refer is not part of Chinuch Atzmai – never was – and was specifically created because of the considerable prejudice within Chinuch Atznai against Sefardi rabbanim and mechanchim.

    The spontaneous demonstrations – as opposed to the peaceful asifa – that erupted in Yerushalayim and elsewhere in protest of the arrest of those who followed the advice of their rabbanim and did not register included burning dumpsters, blocking roads and major traffic arteries and the repeated use of the N word to describe the police and firemen sent to restore order. Sadly, you choose to retreat behind the myths that you pretend exist rather than confronting the questions that need to be faced.

    Finally, the bachur to whom I was referring was not the one arrested last week, but the first young man. A second bachur was stopped for public intoxication on Shushan Purim outside of Yerushalayim. The police ran his data through the computer and discovered that he was an arik and turned him over to the military police. The third young man, arrested last week, was stopped with his family as they passed through a routine police checkpoint and was arrested when he too came up as an arik.

    I wonder where you get your reports which seem to be contrary to all facts.

  11. Yaakov Menken says:

    I do think we’re beating a dead horse, so I will attempt to limit myself to correcting the record with regards to facts alone. The Eidah HaChareidis is very highly-respected with regards to Kashrus. In other aspects its shitos reflect a tiny subset of chareidi society, and their offensive use of Nazi imagery is well over two years old and completely irrelevant to the current discussion.

    El-Al workers burning tiresThe quote regarding Chinuch Atzmai was part of a broader response written four years ago about the dramatic expansion of all aspects of Torah Judaism in Israel [thus I didn’t even recall the reference in my previous reply]. In point of fact, enrollment in Chinuch Atzmai ascended from 20,000 students in the 1960s to 40,000 in the 1980s, reached 80,000 in the early 2000s and as of the 2010-2011 academic year was 95,546. To call this the work of “propogandists [sic] and p.r. materials” requires the belief that the Israeli government and general public have been duped with regards to over 150 “schools” of over 500 students each, not to mention tens of thousands of “students” who don’t actually exist.

    HaMaayan was founded as part of a broader effort to revive a distinct Sephardi mesorah. Chinuch Atzmai teaches using a (Lithuanian) Ashkenazi dialect in both learning and prayer; that’s not discrimination, it’s simply the mesorah of the schools. It was not Ashkenazi “prejudice” that led Rav Schach zt”l to be one of the staunchest supporters of Sha”s.

    Finally, blocking roads and burning dumpsters are, from my own experiences in Israel, quite routine at demonstrations — regardless of whose. The photo is of El-Al workers protesting the “Open Skies” agreement last year. According to reports, they burned aircraft tires at the demonstration, as they have during previous strikes; tires for commercial jets cost several thousand dollars each. The Jerusalem Post is not known to cover up for charedim (and is known to cover up for the police when acting against charedim). I have to admit, I’d never heard of the “first young man” to whom Rabbi Landesman now refers; I referred to Yaakov Yisrael Paz by name, and the facts were all matters of public record.

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    When I read discussions of this nature, the litmus test is whether there is any sense of Hakaras hatov of of the value of the contributions of a community other than that the hashkafic and halachic labels that one identifies with. That malady continues Baavonoseinu HaRabim across the full spectrum of the Israeli social and political arena with no sign of the over the top and at the edge of the gangplank rhetoric abating in any serious manner.

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    R Menken wrote in response:

    “What Rabbi Landesman appears to have overlooked is that the problem of the day is neither motzi dibat ha’Aretz nor motzi dibat ha-medinah, but rather, motzi dibat ha-haredim l’dvar HaShem.”

    Isn’t the above similar to those who defend BDS advocates as being merely anti Zionist or against the occupation when a closer investigation reveals profoundly anti Semitic overtones?

    I think that reducing the over top rhetoric is absolutely necessary -from all quarters. We need some real evidence of hakaras hatov of the other and a realization that demonizing rhetoric and refusal to appreciate the contributions of the “unzerer” is and has been a huge part of the problem for decades.

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    R Menken wrote in part:

    “The Eidah HaChareidis is very highly-respected with regards to Kashrus. In other aspects its shitos reflect a tiny subset of chareidi society, and their offensive use of Nazi imagery is well over two years old and completely irrelevant to the current discussion.”

    It is a davar pashut that the Eidah HaCharedis is a well respected Hashgacha with respect to Kashrus. Yet the views towards Zionism in the Charedi world, which hashkafically have not changed from the pre 1948 opposition to Zionism that was exhibited in the works of the Satmar Rav ZL and R Elchonon Wasserman ZL, HaShem Yimkam Damam still play a large role in how the Charedi world views even the slightest kind of “accomodation” with a sovereign Jewish state in the Land of Israel. The views that the IDF , LHavdil Elef vAlfei Havdalos, is some sort of 21st equivalent of the Tsar’s army and Cantonism, the invocation of Tehilim 79, and the notion that the only “real Torah” is that which is learned in the Charedi yeshivos all have their roots in a hashkafic indifference or hostility to a secular State of Israel, whose presence has played no small part in the revival of a prostrate Jewish People after 1945 and the concomitant revival of Israel as the ground center of where Torah is studied in yeshivos and seminaries -Charedi, RZ and “gap year” yeshivos and seminaries for American young men and women. Again-the absence of Hakaras HaTov in all sectors for the other without jeopardizing validly held hashkafic perspectives requires serious discussion, and not rhetoric based on urban myths and stereotypes.

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