Jewish Journal

Israel Protest in NY Easy For Haredim Not Subject to IDF Draft

by Pini Herman

June 10, 2013 | 2:08 pm

Thousand Strong Ultra-Orthodox Battalion Swearing In

The 5,700 miles (9,200 kilometers) that separate New York and Jerusalem aren't the only thing that separate the Ultra-Orthodox communities.  The fact that the vast majority of Satmar Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox Jews) who organized Sunday’s protest against Haredi service in the IDF are American born and only have to worry about keeping their U.S. draft registration obligations up-to-date may also be important.

One only has to examine US census data on areas where there are concentration of Hareidi residents and there are surprisingly few non-native born among them and even fewer Israeli-born.

The economic situation of U.S. Hareidim makes it even more unlikely that travel to Israel, or any substantial sojourn in Israel, is the lot of draft age NY Hareidim.  There is no Israel gap-year educational industry for Haredi young men and women as there is for Yeshivish and Modern Orthodox post-high schoolers.  Haredi high school-age and college-age youths geographic horizons tend toward New Jersey, New York, Maryland, illinois and other U.S. Yeshiva locations.

The recent Israeli elections found proudly anti-Zionist Satmar Rebbe Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum carrying cash to Israeli Haredi enclaves offering $100 to any Israeli Haredi voter who would sit out the Knesset elections.  From the 40 percent Knesset gains of the non-Zionist Haredi United Torah Judaism Party, which went from 5 seats in the 18th Knesset to 7 seats in the current 19th Knesset, Rabbi Teitelbaum’s Israeli presence and media coverage only seems to have increased Israeli Haredi voter turnout.

The Haredi in Israel, who are actually the ones being drafted and are Israeli voters, had a major protest three weeks ago with an estimated 20,000 protesters. Interestingly, Israel's Haredi draft protesters were smaller in number than Haredi IDF draft protesters claimed for this week’s New York protest.  The anti-Zionist Haredi New York protest may have been planned to capitalize on the Israeli government's jitteriness about this issue. The Israeli government has been so nervous, that last week the swearing-in of an IDF Ultra-Orthodox Battalion that hundreds of Hareidi soldiers in the Netzach Yehuda Haredi Battalion were split up to be sworn in at separate small army base locations to avoid mass Haredi IDF draft protests in Jerusalem where the IDF ceremony was originally scheduled.

The Haredim in Israel are confronting a major ideological split around the issue of Zionism. Many draft-age Hareidim are actually urging IDF service and now seem to be willing inductees. There is a growing new "Haredi" camp with the Hebrew acronym Hardal (Haredi Dati Leumi, translated: Haredi Religious Nationalist). This may be enraging the non-Zionist and anti-Zionist elements in the Haredi community, who may be more salient in the United States than in Israel, as many of the U.S. Haredi have already voted with their feet to not live in Israel.

Just as it was bemoaned a decade ago that the IDF officer corps ceased to be characterized by Kibbutziks, but rather Modern Orthodox who chose to sign up as officers after their mandatory military service, so too, the new Ultra-Orthodox draftees will likely start becoming officers this coming decade. A decent IDF officer's salary may be more alluring to Ultra-Orthodox young men than the oft described state-dole-mantained poverty of Ultra-Orthodox life.  The Satmar Rebbe may foresee that this new occupational opportunity may drive up the cost for buying Israeli vote abstention in the Haredi community.

Pini Herman, PhD. specializes in demographics, big data and predictive analysis, has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position and is a past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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