Friday, October 08, 2010

Drafting Charedim

According to an article in Ha’aretz - the ‘evil’ Israeli Government is at it again. Incoming Chief of Staff Yoav Galant has stated that one of his goals will be to draft more Charedim into the army. How evil! These Charedi draftees will actually be paid more than their secular counterparts:

The Finance Ministry has already agreed to pay Haredi soldiers more than the average soldier, since many are married and have children by the time they enlist or soon after enlisting.

How dare they? How dare the nefarious Reshaim who run the government rip these young men out of the bossom of Torah and Avodas HaShem and place them into an unprecedented (for them) Michshol – both physical and more importantly spiritual – that is the Israeli Defense Force?! And enticing them with (horror of horrors) money to boot!

One might think such an announcement would bring out the ‘big guns’ (i.e. much of the Charedi Yeshiva world leadership) and precipitate major protests from the Charedi leadership. That – as most people have come to see – doesn’t take all that much to do.

But it hasn’t happened. And it probably won’t. That’s because even though there may be official protest about it, I think that there is finally a realization by these leaders that something has seriously gone awry in their system and needs repair. Being drafted into the army would provide these young men tremendous opportunities to learn a profession that would help provide a decent living for their families. To me – that’s what this is all about. From the article:

Sources near Galant say he views drafting more ultra-orthodox as key to Israel's future. It would be good for the army, which is short on technical manpower and people competent in computers and logistics. Galant believes some Haredim not suited for the yeshiva life could be recruited and trained for such jobs. The rabbis are amenable, as long as the practice isn't shouted from the rooftops: If asked in public for their opinion, they have to express their opposition.

If true - this is a very revealing statement. And although I’m glad that there is this realization and concession by rabbinic leaders in Israel to the situation and need to correct it, I’m disappointed that they feel the need to publicly still oppose it.

I suppose I can understand why they feel must do it this way. By publicly endorsing the draft of Charedi students into the army they would be violating the very principles upon which the Yeshiva world in Israel is built. They view learning in a yeshiva full time for as long as possible as mandatory for all Jewish males and strongly opposed any participation at all in the army.

They probably also feel that a wholesale endorsement of the army would severely undermine their entire system – pulling far too many students out of the Beis HaMedrash. They still want to maximize as much as possible attendance in their Yeshivos – but allow those who don’t ‘make it’ in learning to leave quietly without any real protest. That is a step in the right direction. But it is a baby step.

Ideally they should change the paradigm – as I have often suggested. They need to place far more value on preparing for Paranassa than they currently do – which is next to nothing.

That said, by privately supporting the draft of some of their Charedi students - they are at least doing something:

Galant's associates say he believes that drafting the Haredim would benefit society at large and the economy. After their service, armed with technical training, they could join the civil workforce and earn a decent living, precluding the need to rely on government handouts as many do now. Galant believes all this is doable, sources say, because it's the consensus, stated or not, and he has the organizational abilities to carry it out.

Is it enough? I have my doubts. There is still an undercurrent of animosity to the secular Israeli establishment - especially the army. Even in circumstances that would accommodate all Charedi concerns.

But I hope I’m wrong and that this will catch on in a major way. And if that happens dare I dream that an American style Yeshiva high school system that currently exists in Israel at a microscopic level may actually increase with similarly private rabbinic – if not public -support? Only time will tell.