Monday, July 09, 2012

Secular Coercion Will Fail

In Israel Hayom Mati Tuchfeld asks a question:
In a different era, the leaders of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) public would have taken the Plesner committee proposal (on drafting the currently exempt haredim to mandatory military or national service) and the imminent haredi draft law and used it to launch an all-out war. Hundreds of thousands of haredim would have flooded the streets, trash cans would have been set on fire 24 hours a day and dirty diapers would have been hurled at police officers every night. The outlawing of Sephardi-Ashkenazi segregation at the Immanuel girl's school in 2010 (which sparked mass riots) pales in comparison to the imminent enlistment decrees.
In other words, why aren't there any riots concerning the Plesner committee proposals? Tuchfeld thinks he knows the answer:
But the protests aren't happening for one simple reason: Even the haredi public understands that though they may be able to fight the courts or the government, they cannot fight the will of the people.

This blogger begs to disagree. The reason is that these proposals have yet to become law. The "Tal Law" which is the current law concerning army enlistment, will expire at the end of July. If the new law, which is in the process of being formulated, has any form of coercion with regards to those that wish to learn Torah, it will certainly be greeted with adament oppositon by the haredi public.

The politicians, activists and journalists who think that they can force the haredim to leave the Beit Midrash by means of law are completely unfamiliar with haredi culture and its codes. Such coercion will be perceived as a gezeira, an evil decree against Jewish practice, which will be resisted with great ferocity. Mark my words: coercion will fail, epically.

On the other hand, non-coercive programs to enlist haredim have been a great success, as pointed out in this editorial from jpost:
The facts are undeniable. In 2002 just 36 percent of the haredi population was employed; by 2010, 46% were. In 2005, just 300 haredi men were either serving in the IDF or doing some form of national service. By 2011, the number jumped to 4,386, 2,700 of whom were serving in the IDF.

As of May 2012, some 10,000 haredi had served in the IDF as a result of the Tal Law. True, this is just a fraction of the total number of haredi men eligible for military service, but in contrast to previous years, the change for the better is dramatic.
Things were moving in the right direction, and everyone was benefitting. However, the politicians and publicity seekers are not interested in the good of the nation or the army. Emanuel Rosen notes that the army does not need Haredi soldiers:
A few years ago I had a fascinating conversation with a senior office. He was the IDF deputy chief of staff at the time and later became the army chief. He dismissed the myth that the army faces a shortage of soldiers. He said that the time has come for a professional army. That the time has come to put away the irrelevant longing for a “popular army.”
Not only that, secular leftist journalist Eitan Haber tries to explain to his readers the consequences of mass Haredi enlistment:
And as to the IDF, there should be no mistake about it: the enlistment of large numbers of haredi soldiers (as well as national-religious soldiers in recent years) will require the army to create a new way of life and introduce new codes of conduct at many units, including the seclusion of women.

We have been there before: In the 1960s, no military vehicle was allowed to travel on the Shabbat unless it received a permit from a major-general. Do we really want to go back in the time tunnel?
As one who served in the army, I am not interested in enlisting those who do not want to serve, be they Arabs, Haredim or radical leftists. I want to know that the soldier serving with me will charge when the order is given. I want to be sure that my comrade in arms will not turn his gun on me.

Yes, I can understand the frustration of the general public. Army service is not easy. On the other hand the permissive atmosphere in the army is totally unacceptable to the Haredi community. No Haredi parent is going to send his child there, period. National service and special frameworks within the army are an excellent solution. However, nobody will enter these frameworks under compulsion.

The politicians have climbed up a tree. Will they know how to come down? Will they be able to come up with a workable formula that will be acceptable to the entire nation?

Update: Rav Mordechai Norgeshal speaks. Mati Tuchfeld, are you listening?

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