Haredim: “Better to serve in the Nazi Army than in the IDF”
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.—Matthew 6:24
Haredim: “Better to serve in the Nazi Army than in the IDF”
A fortnight ago, Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett said in the Knesset: “It’s impossible that Haredim won’t serve in the army.” This happened as leading rabbis of his Religious-Zionist movement met leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis in an attempt to create a historic alliance between the movements (see IDF battles Jewish Orthodoxy).
In a surprising show of mental flexibility and lack of principles, this happened while Bennett’s party is likely to become a key partner in Netanyahu’s next government and the ultra-Orthodox may stay out. Bennett’s comment and his subsequent meeting with Netanyahu were considered by Haredim as a Cain-event; they were betrayed and killed by their brother-in-faith. His words couldn’t pass unnoticed.
On February 18, Channel 7 released a video taken at the entrance of Yeshivat Mir, the largest Jewish college in Israel and probably the entire world, minutes before Bennett was to speak. Two Haredi men speak in the short video, saying things that have never before been broadcast by Israeli networks. Readers not familiar with the situation of the Haredim in Israel can find a short summary at the bottom of this page; all others are invited to keep reading the astonishing texts.
Haredi IDF Soldiers, Nahal Battalion 97
IDF Soldier and Haredim
“It is better to die!”
The video begins with an agitated Haredi man speaking in poor Hebrew; when he gets too upset he moves into bastard-Yiddish. I don’t speak the latter thus the comment is partial; I tried to keep his peculiar style. The softest thing he said was “It is better to die than to be with the Zionists.” He was kind enough to inform us the reason for his statement, “They are thieves, they took control of the lands here, they are thieves, the Zionists.”
However, the main topic was not land ownership; he added, “We will not go to the army, it is better to go to the Nazi Army than to the Zionist Army, it is better, much better… Nazism meant only death, this is much worse… (he moved to Yiddish).” Near the end, another Haredi appears and adds a few words, “He [Bennett] has only one more seat [than Haredi Shas]. What is this? From where comes his arrogance…”
“See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us”—Ecclesiastes 1:10
These words weren’t new. In fact, Israelis will be easily capable of quoting even worse ones; sadly under the international censorship enforced by certain organizations, it is impossible to repeat abroad what is common knowledge in Israel. Can I give an useful hint? Otherwise, my work wouldn’t be finished, as his wasn’t…
About a year ago, Haredi protests in Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, produced unforgettable images, like the one accompanying this paragraph, before being violently repressed by the Zionist police. The protesters claimed that the Zionist state was behaving towards them as bad as Nazi Germany had treated their ancestors. The feeling of the Ultra-Orthodox that they are discriminated against by the secular State of Israel is well based, as are similar claims by many other segments of this troubled society.
Beit Shemesh, Israel, 2012 Zionism and the State of Israel
There was nothing new here. The second man in the video spoke of Bennett’s arrogance. The latter is a prominent officer in the IDF, an army accused by a formal UN document for its “arrogance of power” and for “inflicting terror.” Ultra-Orthodox Jews feel the same towards the State of Israel.
It is easy to dismiss the claims of the Haredim with a variety of secular arguments. Yet, facts show that Haredim are correct. Ambiguity allows manipulations. Nowhere is that clearer than with the modern misuse of the word “fanatics.” Religious people accept that not everyone can choose this path. The beautiful text on the Judgment Day, in Matthew 25:31-46, explains how there are two types of people, those accepting God and His vales and those not. Here is part of it:
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.—Matthew 25:34-40
In other words, a religious life allows pluralism. That’s true also for Islam; the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran recognizes non-Islamic people. In sharp contrast, humanists expect everybody to accept their valueless world. In their narrow-minded interpretation, they call “fanatic” everyone rejecting their foolish chit-chat. They are the only fanatics in this equation. Eventually, they want to transform everybody into a fanatic-secularist, servant of a secular government.
This is what allows the unending Western wars, which are not opposed by most of the Western electorate. Secret wars conducted under secret laws can not be justified. People of God don’t take part in them. If Haredim join the Israeli army, they have a real reason to fear losing their souls, and that, as our friend stated, “is worse than Nazism.”
Addendum: Jewish Orthodoxy and the Army
On August 22, 1999, the then Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak appointed the Tal Committee, which dealt with the special exemption from mandatory military service in the IDF given to ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim and Hasidim). It was headed by retired Justice Tzvi Tal; thus it was named after him.
On July 23, 2002, the Tal Law, based on the committee results, was passed in the Knesset. It enabled the continuation of the IDF service-exempt given to yeshiva members (“yeshiva” means “sitting” in Hebrew; it is the name of Jewish religious colleges). At the age of 22, yeshiva members would receive a year of decision in which they would need to choose to continue their studies or to go to work.
Those who choose to go out of the yeshiva and work would need to choose between a minimalist army service of four months, and then reserve duties according to the army’s needs, or a civilian service of one year. The service would be done in special IDF units organized according to religious needs, like Nahal Battalion 97 (the IDF has several ethnic units, see Explosion in Sinai).
Secular Jews opposed the law, claiming that it discriminated against them by being forcing them (by default because they don’t get a similar exemption) to serve at least three years in the IDF.
Yet, using half-hidden laws, secular Jews can also get service exemptions. In 2005, the State admitted in a response to a bagatz+ petition, that the Tal Law had failed to change enlistment practices of Orthodox Jews. Back then, only a few dozen ultra-Orthodox Jews enlisted in the army as a result of the law; by the beginning of 2012, the number was still below 900.
In 1974, only 2.4% of high school graduates about to enroll in the IDF were exempt because they were yeshiva members. In 1999, they were 9.2%; it was 15% in 2012. These numbers are a clear sign of a very benevolent discrimination by the State of Israel towards Haredim and Hasidim.
Yet, the same secular Jews who petitioned the High Court on their own behalf, do not oppose other types of discrimination enforced by the IDF towards other minorities.
On February 21, 2012, the Supreme Court of Israel annulled the “Tal Law,” with a majority of 6 justices against 3. Dorit Beinisch, then President of the Court supported the decision: “we can help to bring a gradual change,” she said. Asher Dan Grunis, who later replaced her, opposed the decision. He said that the thought the court would bring Haredim to serve in the IDF is “an illusion.” “It doesn’t help the status of the court, we won’t bring change,” he added.
In August, the law expired and became one of the main reasons that forced Netanyahu to call for early elections. The main argument of the Orthodox leaders is that they care about their youth, who want nothing but to study Torah. As said, they behave like Asian leaders and thus sound manipulative to the secular crowd.
However, this is not the entire picture. An important part of the religious Jews is made up by the abovementioned Religious-Zionists, who go to the army as seculars do. For the sake of American readers, I must emphasize that all of them practice Orthodox Judaism; Reform and Conservative Jews are not part of this.
Following the elections, Naftali Bennet, their leader, is in a tough situation. He has a long history with Netanyahu; it began with love and ended with hatred and a wild attack on him by Netanyahu in the last days of the campaign. Contacts, between Bennet and Lapid in an attempt to form an alliance against Netanyahu were announced publicly.
Yet, this is not something Bennett can sell to his electorate. The Bible is above the secular state, allying a heretic “rabbit eater” is absolutely non-kosher. On the same day, leading rabbis belonging to Religious-Zionism caused a major earthquake, signalling a realignment of Israeli politics. The donkey of the Messiah is about to be dismissed.
Mr. Tov Roy is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.