Drafting the Ultra-Orthodox: The Debate Returns https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/israel-zionism/2019/04/drafting-the-ultra-orthodox-the-debate-returns/

April 23, 2019 | David M. Weinberg
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As Benjamin Netanyahu works to form a governing coalition, he is expected to try to bring both Yisrael Beytenu—which strongly objects to the exemption from military service given to most Ḥaredim—and the two ḥaredi parties into his government. The negotiations, writes David M. Weinberg, will no doubt revive the controversy regarding this exemption. Over the past twenty years, many compromise proposals have been considered, and meanwhile ḥaredi enlistment has gradually increased, but no piece of legislation has managed to survive both the Knesset and the Supreme Court. Weinberg proposes a solution of his own:

Almost every yeshiva and kollel [institution of post-graduate talmudic study] in Israel operates on the same academic calendar. . . . The total vacation accrued, for all junior and senior kollel men, yeshiva boys, and yeshiva educators of all ranks and stripes [is] ten to eleven weeks annually. Ultra-Orthodox society calls this beyn ha-zmanim (between semesters).

At these times, you’ll find ḥaredi youth and ḥaredi families traveling the country, visiting its parks, shopping in its malls, swimming in its pools, and even occasionally traveling abroad. Doing normal vacation stuff. . . .

I say that the well-endowed-with-vacation Ḥaredim have an obligation to forgo at least some of their time “outside the tents of Torah” to share in the national burden. . . . It could work like this: for, say, five out of their ten weeks of vacation each year, ultra-Orthodox men would be drafted into specially-designed units that meet rigorous standards of kashrut and modesty—ranging from the all-ḥaredi Naḥal units to the national emergency medical service Magen David Adom, and from the army rabbinate to rescue services. . . .

Some Ḥaredim might have to miss out on the luxury of having a Passover seder at home or may find themselves spending Yom Kippur in an army hospital pushing wheelchairs, but that’s a small price to pay for national responsibility and unity. . . . Ḥaredim have the time and the ability to serve their country without egregiously cutting back on Torah study and without abandoning their unique way of life—if they truly care to share in the national-security burden.

This proposal upholds the belief that . . . Torah study should be allowed to flourish without restriction in the state of Israel, and simultaneously the belief that it is morally unacceptable that an entire class of Israeli citizens automatically be released from the burden of militarily defending the country.

Read more on David M. Weinberg: https://www.davidmweinberg.com/2019/04/18/the-big-bugaboo-returns/

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