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Jewish Journal

Haredi Free-Pass

by Noga Gur-Arieh

June 26, 2012 | 10:13 am

A few good men. Haredi soldiers.

My recruitment for the army was simple.  When I was 17, I received a letter, calling me for a day of tests, which will help the army find the best type of service for me. After that, I went for several more interviews and tests. Then I received a letter with my recruitment date in it. When that day came, I reported, and after a month-long boot-camp, I served for two years with the best people at the best place, and had a really good time. I was lucky, no doubt, but along the way, no one asked me if I’m having a good time, if I am interested in getting a bigger salary, if I like the people I’m working with, or if I prefer a change of environment. No one asked, and I didn’t expect anyone to ask. It was obvious that when you serve your country, that’s all you do, and you put yourself entirely to it. It wasn’t until I finished my service that the army helped my figuring out my next step by offering a number of conferences and job fairs, providing me tax discounts and giving me a nice grant to help me get started.

It was as obvious as the sunrise to me and my friends that we must serve for the entire period of time required by the IDF, even if it is not to our liking (obviously, I preferred lying on the beach for two years). Just as it was obvious to me, it is obvious most Israeli 18 year old. My question, then, is how come it’s anything but obvious to 18 year old Haredi? How come after 64 years, the government is still trying to figure out a way to recruit them? Are they not as Israeli as I am? It they are, and they are, I don’t understand why should there even be a question regarding their recruitment. If you ask them, they will tell you they can’t serve because they need to learn the Torah/Talmud/ whatever. Others will say they can’t serve in the army because this is an environment not suitable for them and not modest enough. The more extreme answer is that they do not support Israel and don’t want to fight for it. Good thing I found an answer to all of their excuses:  want to study? Me, too. Wish I could start university at the early age of 18, but I had to serve my country. Unsuitable environment? Last time I checked, the army keeps kosher like no place else. Other than that, each and every base has a temple, and every task can be delayed in case a soldier wants to join a service. Finally, we all wear uniform, so nothing un-modest here, and the army also has very specific rules regarding any public touching between male and female soldiers. If anyone will ask for a proof, I will present them with the Haredi who do join the army. I had an entire Haredi section at my base, and from what I heard, they felt pretty good serving there. For the last excuse, I have the best solution of them all- don’t want to live here? You are free to leave.

It took my about two seconds to come up with those answers. For some reason, it takes the government forever, and even then, the solutions are merely partial. Earlier this week, the government laid out the 8000 plan to recruit 80% of the Haredi population (the 20% who will be excused are “biblical prodigies”).  This program is supposed to either recruit the Haredi to the army or make them do “civil service” (volunteer in hospitals, work with kids, etc.). This plan, like its previous, seems acceptable. The problem is that it’s just a plan, and like the many times before, it probably will remain that way. Why? Because for some reason, their recruitment became Mission Impossible 5. If their lack of recruitment was the only problem, I would probably let it go at some point, knowing they will be punished in some way. The thing is it doesn’t end there. The Haredi receive all the possible financial benefits from the government, which allows them to spend their lives doing nothing for the country, as the country does everything for them. This is fundamentally wrong, and way over “lazy”. This is sitting aside as a way of life, letting everyone else do the job.

The Israeli IDF protects the country and its citizens. Every single day I thank my brother the soldier and his friends for helping me sleep peacefully at night. I grew up knowing that by the age of 18, I will serve. Pay my due to my home. There are many people who, from physical or mental reasons, can’t serve in the IDF. The Heredi who choose to “skip” the army see themselves as a part of that group, the “incapables”, but they are not. They are just as capable as I. The only problem is I was educated to join the army. They were educated to let others do it. Before I finish, I just want to state that this doesn’t go to all Haredi. Only to the group of Haredi who feel like not giving back to their country. The army never asked me about my beliefs, simply because it didn’t matter. I am an Israeli living in Israel, and that’s enough to make me serve in the IDF. No excuses.

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