I like turning heads, and the haredim issue has been turning mine for a long time now. I like to think I’m pretty religious; however, I find the military exemption for haredim to be beyond absurd.
Most people would condemn the haredim for reasons both legitimate and illegitimate; their isolation, their strict observance, and sometimes repugnant behavior towards women. I’m not going to do that, however. The first reason is because I’m not a fan of referring to large groups of people as a collective. Some of them believe isolating themselves and policing women isn’t really a part of observing Torah, and still many others are more nuanced, so why generalize? The second reason is that, their exemption from military service is really an issue that stands on its own without getting bogged down with other social problems that have little to do with the Israeli government. So why divide others if you don’t have to?
I’m digressing but, I think too many people in news and media approach this with a personal vendetta against them, and I simply don’t have that. They’re really good fellow Jews, and I admire their strict and devout observance. It’s nothing against them but I believe that, for the prosperity of the Jewish state, every Jew must share the responsibility, and they have been legally excluded for decades.
Imagine a group of people that gets paid by the government to do nothing but study Torah all their lives, without any work or service expected in return. In fact, unemployment estimates for them are as high as 60%. If it were any other group of people, we would call them a drain on the state’s economy, by the merit of the kind of benefits they receive. Well, that’s exactly what we see with the haredim inside Israel. From a purely economic standpoint, things have to change, and with the Jewish state surrounded by enemies, Israel pays a heavy price for anything it does, or doesn’t, do. We can not afford to be indecisive.
This leads to the most basic and simple demand, to treat the Haredi man the same as any other Jewish citizen in Israel. I’m not sure at what point we lose our senses, but it’s one of the simplest puzzles to solve. Are you an Israeli citizen? Yes. Are you Jewish? Yes. Then society expects you to contribute. Instead, any Jew can just skip his duties simply by shouting how religious he is. I’m so glad we have many religious people, they can make the IDF a more religious place!
Which leads to the crux of my argument. What part of the religion exempts you from defending your fellow Jews? I could get it if someone converted to Islam, and had no real allegiance to his fellow Jews or the Jewish state, but they flaunt their religious credentials with pride. Fine then; was Moses, Yehoshua, and King David exempt from their duties to the Jewish people, on the grounds they were religious? Haredim claim to be observant, but our greatest historical leaders were closer to Hashem than any haredi alive today, and each fought many wars that make most Israeli’s stomach churn. Yet, on this issue, they ask for more privilege than any Jewish king in history.
I encourage every individual Jew to be religious, and I expect each one to defend his fellow Jews.