“No Haredim Enlisting Anymore”

[UPDATE: After I wrote this, it was reported that the government has decided to make things worse, rather than better, singling out the soldiers of Nahal Haredi among the hundreds who went on Facebook calling for “revenge” after the murder of the three boys, jailing four of them for ten days. So the government has now clarified that a Haredi teen will be targeted for disrespect and a possible jail sentence whether or not he enlists.]

Just a few days ago, Yair Lapid delivered an eloquent eulogy for Gilad Sha’ar, one of the three boys murdered by terrorists. In his remarks, which were entitled “We Need One Another,” he urged people to set aside rage, hate, and the desire for revenge — he called, instead, for unity and love. And he said that we must “rediscover the paths that connect all of us,” to choose the latter option when pondering “that which divides us, or that which binds us; the suspicion or the trust.”

It is obvious to all of us that Gilad, Eyal and Naftali have brought us together, and Lapid’s remarks aptly caught the spirit of the day. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but be discomforted by the contrast between his unifying words, and his actions as a politician. This would, indeed, be an excellent time for us to turn away from the path of confrontation, and towards a path of building trust. MK Lapid himself, as a member of the Cabinet, can kick-start this process.

Subsumed in the horrid news of the discovery of the three boys was an otherwise important interview published late last week, which, awful though the timing may be, speaks directly to how Lapid’s actions have divided us. Rav Avraham Baron, the former Chairman of the association of Hesder Yeshivot, called for the cancellation of Lapid’s failed Enlistment Law. If the Supreme Court does not invalidate this law, he predicted, “we won’t see even a single Haredi enlist… and there will be a social and financial crisis that will enlarge the schism in the nation.”

In his words, “the rabbis have no faith in the Army today.” In the Haredi community, this is quite an understatement, but it is important coming from the Chairman of the Hesder yeshivot. He recognizes that any effort to change the Haredi community by fiat is going to backfire. He added, for that matter, that the law threatens the Hesder yeshivot as well.

Lapid attempted to dictate the terms of Haredi enlistment, complete with provisions that applied the criminal penalties for draft-dodgers to yeshiva scholars. This, of course, was a red line that the Gedolim, our leading Rabbis, had previously said could not be accepted. They were prepared to deal with financial penalties and other limitations, but not depicting Tzurba MiRabbonon, young Torah scholars, as felons.

To some extent, one can understand Lapid’s failure to foresee the results of forcing his “solution” upon the Haredim — that yeshiva students would view the prospect of incarceration for following the dictates of their Rabbis to be less of a threat than a privilege, and enlistment would plummet. But how anyone educated in the Yeshiva system — such as Yesh Atid’s token Haredi, Dov Lipman — could display the same myopia, is beyond me.

In order to resolve the situation and permit the development of a workable model for working Haredim (pun intended), akin to what already flourishes in America, two things have to happen. The first is, as Rav Baron specified, that there must be a new law which incorporates the idea that “whoever can sit and study Torah should study.” In other words, the law must respect the sincere belief of the Haredi world that Torah study protects our nation. The law must leave the decision of when to leave yeshiva to the students themselves, in consultation with their Roshei Yeshiva.

The second requirement is the development of a model for national service which bypasses the Haredi objection to the Army’s secondary role, as described by Jonathan Ostroff in the [Canadian] National Post: “Ben-Gurion and the other founders of the secular state of Israel wanted the army to be a melting pot for immigrants from all over the world. Haredi Jews did not, and still do not, want to be melted down.”

As also mentioned by Ostroff, we’ve been down this road before. Sixty years ago, the government attempted to force conscription of Haredi women, and buckled in the face of unanimous and absolute opposition from the leaders of the community. The Haredim today are a far larger and more prominent sector of Israeli society — so even more than sixty years ago, the government must work with the Haredim to pursue a mutually-acceptable solution, rather than trying to dictate terms.

Lapid has shown us that he can truly talk the talk. Will he follow it with action?

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10 Responses

  1. la costa says:

    the government must work with the Haredim to pursue a mutually-acceptable solution, rather than trying to dictate terms.

    —- or, Lapid will continue on his own terms , and increase haredi poverty from the merely crushing to unbearable levels ….

  2. Moshe Dick says:

    Dear Rabbi Menken!
    You are beating a dead horse. The new law is in effect now and there is absolutely no chance of it being changed or repealed anytime soon. It will take a lot more than a few months of implementation before any changes will be considered. I know you have been on a mission in demonizing the authors of the new law but it is on the books for a long time.

  3. Yaakov Menken says:

    R’ Moshe,

    I’m on a mission to address a pragmatic reality. Lapid’s method is not working, he did it in divisive fashion, and Rav Baron does believe it can be reversed “anytime soon” and replaced by something that the Gedolim and the government can both accept.

    People can complain about how unfair it is for yeshiva students to be exempt while they study, but the bottom line is that it is the deal that Ben-Gurion made. It is true that Ben-Gurion did not envision how large the Charedi community would grow, but the Chazon Ish did have that vision, and also knew that his focus wasn’t merely the State of Israel, but the continuation of millenia of Jewish survival. Again, pragmatically speaking, continuous and uninterrupted study for those so inclined is not something the Gedolim will sacrifice — and Ben-Gurion chose to work with that, rather than rail against it.

  4. c-l,c says:

    Fool me once -shame on you
    Fool me twice- shame on me

    Good people fell before for rhapsody of Lapid’s Kiryat Ono speech and ‘ what we value more than life’ is bleeding badly because of it,with more coming in the pipeline!

    Words are often meaningless and cheap-and dangerously deceiving.

  5. Aharon says:

    I can understand why the Haredi leadership resisted changing the policy but why hasn’t an alternative been offered? It may be true that Lapid’s tactics aren’t working, but we can’t keep maintaining the status quo.

  6. Ari Heitner says:


    Had the new draft law only included financial incentives/disincentives to enlist and against staying in kollel, and had it been implemented with the cooperation of the Haredi parties (who sat on the committee), the existing trend towards increasing enlistment, increasing enrollment in career-oriented post-high school programs, and increasing acceptance of both of the above in the Haredi community, would have presumably continued. While there were and are rejectionist streams, the mainstream of Lithuanian, Chassidishe, and Sefardi leadership (i.e. Degel, the Adudah, and Shas) were on board.

    Even had the Supreme Court ruled that without criminalizing failure to meet draft quotas, the law would be unconstitutional, and thus forced exactly the same de jure outcome, the de facto environment would be entirely different. Lapid could have visited the gedolim, expressed his dismay, smiled his politician smile and said, “I wish the Supreme Court would stop messing with us – I certainly didn’t want to hurt you,” and gotten exactly what he wanted without ruffling everyone’s feathers.

    Instead, now Lapid has united the moderate leadership with the zealots, and made this into a holy war.

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

  7. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Not only is the bill fair, but it bends over backwards to cater to the needs of the Chareidi community. (If anything the people who should really be upset with Lapid are the secular people who voted for him on his promise of “equal service”… this bill is anything but.) Not until the irrational acrimony surrounding its passage has fully died down will we have a chance to properly assess its effectiveness. Also, much of the infrastructure needed to support the bill is not in place yet. Any judgement at this early stage is premature. Reasonable people will give it a reasonable amount of time before passing judgement.

    [Clearly you and the entire Rabbinic leadership of the Charedi world, plus a large segment of the DL world, have very different ideas as to what is “fair.” In my view, reneging on a deal is never “fair.” But I guess that’s just me. — YM]

  8. Moshe Dick says:

    Dear Rabbi Menken!
    Maybe the problem is the different views of klal Yisroel. You mention a certain view (virtually kollel for everyone)that is in direct opposition of centuries of jewish history.This debate has been rehashed time and time again and is at the root of the present situation.

    [Obviously, times have changed. –YM]

  9. Yossie Abramson says:

    [Obviously, times have changed. –YM]

    So why do you object to changing the deal with the Chazon Ish?

    [Are you honestly comparing an internal change based upon circumstances, to one side unilaterally reneging on an agreement? I wonder in what other case you would claim that’s less different than day and night. –YM]

  10. LOberstein says:

    I have spoken to Israelis in the know and they feel this is a temporary blip. The economic conditions are forcing a change in the status quo. Many chareidim want very much to get training and earn a decent income and support their families-things which elsewhere are considered normal. Right now,there is social pressure and group intimidation that is not sustainable in the long run. That,at least, is the answer you would receive.
    There are all kinds of programs to train people. Adina Bar Shalom has said that half of the chareidi men drop out because they just aren’t prepared for math,English ,etc and can’t hack it.
    There are several programs just starting for Anglo children whose parents have made aliyah which offer high school Bagrut but the key to all of these programs is to keep it quiet-don’t ask don’t tell .
    As we know from the US, Don’t ask,don’t tell is only a stop gap bridge to acceptance .I think the lead will come from olim from the West who realize that they cannot force their children into an Israeli chareidi mold and expect them to all adapt to a lifetime of living that way.

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