Walking part way across Jerusalem (due to street closures), I attended the Great Prayer Rally held Sunday afternoon…
Immediately upon returning I was asked, why? I have children in the army, and it may be assumed I do not agree with avoiding army service. Here’s my answer…
- Perhaps the greatest strength of the strictly religiously-observant Jewish community is the ability to stand together. Whether I agree with all the details or not, I stand with my community.
- Once in my life I had the chance to attend a Siyum HaShas in Madison Square Garden and daven (pray) together with 50,000 other Jews. On this day I had a chance to daven (pray) together with (at least) 500,000 other Jews. Until Moshiach comes and the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt, this was (probably) a once in a lifetime opportunity. And crying out Shema Yisroel with 500,000 other Jews is AWESOME and awe inspiring. May the merit BRING MOSHIACH NOW!
- Some of the politicians are trying to make gradual cultural adjustments to make sure religio-demographic trends in Israel don’t crush the economy and social support system. BUT, some of the politicians are out to “give it to the orthodox Jewish religious community”. You can’t scream “they just suck off the system” and have laws preventing them from working until age 31 (if they receive a religious army exemption) – but they do. You can’t scream “they’re uneducated and unprepared for the workplace” while refusing to certify their education programs, which in the U.S. count for full college credit and accredited B.A. degrees, which then prevents them from entering higher education programs – but they do. You can’t scream “they refuse to go into the army” when the units that meet their minimal lifestyle requirements are at 100% capacity and the army has refused to open more such units – but they do.
- And you can’t make a law called equal and sharing the burden for all citizens, but then ONLY target the ultra-orthodox Jewish religious sector with criminal sanctions – but that’s what they are doing.
- You want to criminalize those who learn Torah? In Israel? Really???
You may argue: “But, the charedim aren’t compromising. They’re not giving an inch. With their increasing demographics, their way of life is not sustainable without outside funding, and their loss of manpower is going to compromise the army.” And these are valid points though less true than they seem…
-- To the public, their public, they are not compromising. BUT, the Charedi army units were created IN COOPERATION and tacit approval of leading rabbis of the Charedi community. No, not all of them, and some disagree. But the main streams were “silent on the issue”, and whispering “those who are not prepared to learn (Torah) long term should go rather than stand around doing nothing (doing nothing because the LAW prevents them from WORKING legally or learning at an occupational institution until age 31). The steady increase in numbers taking this path already meant the new law’s statistical goals were ALREADY going to be met. So what’s the purpose of making a new law? For one party to play to their anti-religious constituency.
-- For one of the parties involved, the economic problem is their sole focus. So changing the law to say that there are NO restrictions on working or other types of education for one who receives a religious draft deferment was their goal. By the way, THIS IS ALREADY THE CASE for ANY OTHER TYPE OF DEFERMENT. Meaning, the religious draft deferment IS DISCRIMINATORY on it’s conditions today! This is a worthy change, but not worth the loud battle which puts the whole community on the defensive.
-- As for the manpower, if the army wanted it, all it had to do was make some moderate social changes to it’s training, food, and bunking structures. HOWEVER, the feminists complained against this as it might limit the opportunities for women soldiers to become commanders or trainers of these units – or sing to them in concert!? The army HR complained against this as the current mash-them-all-together has made such a homogenized society, and that would be lost. IN OTHER WORDS, all the complaints on NOT providing such capacity was about SOCIAL ENGINEERING.
It may seem the charedim are taking an extreme position, but it’s a direct reaction to the extreme positions being pushed upon them. It’s a classic Israeli screaming match. When people actually want to get something done, they do it QUIETLY.
This is anything but.
The rally itself was ONLY prayers. NOBODY spoke against the army or the government. Hundreds of thousands of Jews praying together – it was AWESOME.