TEL AVIV — Centrist Israeli political party Yesh Atid pushed a plan last week requiring all Ultra-Orthodox Jews to register for military service with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), effectively ending years of draft exemptions for Israel’s most traditional religious scholars. Reactions in Israel have generally varied, but many in the Ultra Orthodox community (called Haredim) are “kicking themselves pretty hard” for not “focusing more on war” during their religious studies.
“If I knew I’d have to join the military, I would have been practicing shooting others in the face with an Uzi instead of shooting myself in my own foot studying the Torah for sixteen hours a day,” spoke a frustrated 25-year-old Haredi who wished to remain anonymous.
According to the military, 3,000 Haredi soldiers are currently volunteering their services in the IDF. In a recent poll concerning the practicality of scripture in military service, over 98% of volunteering Haredi claimed religious texts to have been a “complete waste of time,” “an utter failure in the face of warring activity,” or “zero comfort whatsoever in training and actual combat.” The remaining 2% claimed to find some comfort in religious text, especially “during shortages of bathroom tissue” and “during shortages of regular tissue while having to cry oneself to sleep.”
Adopting a more traditional stance, Ultra-Orthodox rabbis have been largely against Yesh Atid’s plan, cautioning against integrating the piety of religious scholarship with the secular standards of the IDF. They insist their young men serve the nation through prayer and study, thus preserving Jewish learning and the heritage that the Jewish people have fought so hard to maintain through centuries of persecution.
“*Expletive* that!” commented a 25-year-old anonymous Haredi military volunteer. “The reason the Haredim commit themselves to prayer and study is because they’re all giant *expletive*! Come on! Have you seen what this mother-*expletive*-Davidka mortar can do?!” he exclaimed, pointing to a large weapon.
Having spearheaded this new legislation, Yesh Atid minister Yaakov Peri has been careful to toe the line between the national interests of Israel’s secular and religious communities. Tensions between both communities have persisted as long as the Haredim haven’t been forced to serve the mandatory two years in the military that all other citizens in Israel must serve.
Recently, Mr. Peri explained to The Associated Press that the proposed legislation takes into consideration “the importance of learning the Torah and the obligation to serve in the army…though, admittedly, I am mainly saying this to show how useless the Torah is when stacked against an activity that permits the use of guns, grenades, and artillery weapons.”
Thousands more Haredi are expected to be drafted in the coming months if Mr. Peri’s legislation passes, and most male Ultra-Orthodox practitioners have at least recognized that they have to put aside current frustrations in order to deal with another, more daunting challenge: serving alongside women, equally.
“Now that debate is going to be *expletive* bananas,” affirmed another anonymous 25-year-old Haredim.