The Haredi Case for IDF Enlistment

March 1, 2024 | Yitzchok Adlerstein
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On Wednesday night, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant urged the government to end draft exemptions for Haredim. This long-controversial issue has come to the fore with a new urgency amid a post-October 7 eruption of good feeling between Haredim and non-Haredim. Indeed, Gallant in the same speech made a point of saying, “We cherish and appreciate those who dedicate their lives to learning the Torah.” Yitzchok Adlerstein, an American-born, moderate Haredi rabbi, recently wrote about the subject on a blog aimed to a strictly Orthodox audience:

The IDF is strapped for manpower. It is removing future recruits from training programs that were to give them months more preparation (including Torah study in the religious programs), because they are needed now on the front. The term of service has been extended for both regular service and the annual service in reserve units. In other words, a heavy burden has just been made even heavier.

It does not seem so likely that the default response of our [haredi] community—sit back, weather the storm, and watch it blow over—is going to work. There is a distinct danger that if we don’t come up with some reasonable proposal, others may impose one. There are several signs that this may be the case. First, as mentioned, the mood of the country has shifted. Ironically, this is at a time that many who were not sympathetic at all to Torah or Haredim have become much more so in the spirit of unity, and the general move to [greater religious faith] since October 7. Despite the softening of hostility towards Haredim, insistence on some “sharing of the burden” is also gaining strength.

If the yeshivah world fails to offer any proposal at all regarding the draft situation, it may find itself even more isolated than before, and more fiercely targeted by non-Haredim, despite the good will generated in recent months. This would be especially ironic, given that . . . the way Haredim relate to the IDF has shifted toward much greater appreciation and gratitude than before. In other words, we are so close—and yet so far.

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