Monday, July 10, 2006
Charedim In The IDF
Back in August of ’99 I had just arrived in Jerusalem to start my post-high school yeshiva stint. It was the first time I had been to Israel since I was little kid. On one of my first days there I ran into an older guy that I knew from summer camp. While we were schmoozing, a soldier walked by with an M-16 slung over his soldier. He had long, flowing peyos and a large yarmulke on his head. I casually mentioned that I thought that sight was pretty cool and wished that I would see it more often. Instantly our schmoozing turned into a full-blown argument about Charedim not serving in the IDF. He went through all the typical excuses. (Learning Torah is more important, if you join the IDF you’re going to end up not being frum, etc, etc). But one reason he gave seemed novel to me. He claimed that the IDF didn’t want Charedim to serve, that they would make terrible soldiers, because they are non-violent, gentle people. Secular Israelis, OTOH, grow up in the Israeli public school system, so they are more appropriate for combat.
I though of this today after reading about the first Chasid to join the NYPD. I’m certain that he’ll make a fine officer, and should the situation require it, he’d be able to use force just like any other cop.
Then I started remembering all the riots involving Charedim that go on in Israel every couple of weeks. When you read the accounts it’s pretty clear that Charedim are very often not non-violent, gentle people. They throw rocks and bottles at the police, light dumpsters on fire, kidnap bodies from the morgue, et, etc.
Why can’t these energies be channeled into something useful, like defending your country, or in Joel Witriol’s case, by defending your city and neighborhood?
Did you catch the slip up, "peyoses?" I laughed at that one.
However, he's portrayed as very blase' about his education, calling it "religious stuff." Maybe it's the journalist's voice coming through in the snipping, but it didn't make me happy to read that.
I'm proud of him, though, and I think you're right. "Our boys" can do a wonderful job, and we're fortunate that they can play such an important role.
I remember when I went to the army for my pre-induction interview, and the soldiers wanted me to sign a document stating that I was a Yeshiva student and therefore was not eligible to be drafted.
After a while, they called over an officer to help convince me. In the end, I signed, to get them off my back, only after they assured me that my signature means nothing if I don't fill out forms in the Yeshiva as well - I chose not to fill out the forms in Yeshiva.
What must be understood is that the Charedi community is not like the rest of the Israeli community, and as such, they have special needs and requirements. Until recently (when the Nachal Charedi was started a few years ago), the army was simply ill equipped to handle Chareidim, and as such, preferred that they not be drafted.
Obviously, they can't admit to this publicly, but the intense pressure that was applied to me made it clear to me that the soldiers had orders from above to make sure Charedim signed the deferment documents.