A Hareidi Reaction to the Draft Committee Report

This article may arouse anger or empathy - but it will certainly have readers thinking about the issues discussed.

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Prof. Shmuel Neumann,

Black hatters
Black hatters

A student in Hebrew University’s Master’s program in communications counted references to the Holocaust in hareidi newspapers and in mainstream Israeli newspapers and found that the hareidi newspapers referred to the Holocaust many more times than the others.

While we all live in the dark shadows of the Holocaust, for hareidim every attack upon the “too Jewish”, although there is no comparison, is associated with Kristalnacht beatings and ultimate danger. MIstaken, but a fact.

The specter of the Holocaust is ever present. To help mainstream society understand the hareidi point of view, I will make this personal.

I may have the rare distinction of having the only Jewish father who joined the Gestapo. My father survived the Holocaust by stealing identity papers and posing as a gentile. He was once stopped by a Nazi and asked for his papers. Seeing that this Nazi suspected my father of being a Jew, my father beat him up. Of course my father was arrested and when the big muscular Nazi approached the Judge with his face all bruised, the Judge screamed at him of how he allowed this much smaller citizen to beat him up. My father told the judge that he wished to join the Gestapo and my father was released to go the Gestapo headquarters in another city. En route, my father jumped from the train as it stopped to pick up supplies.

My father told me that he once had many spare identity papers and went into a town before the “expulsion” and went to the local synagogue. He told the long bearded Jews what was awaiting them and put on the table a stack of identity papers and my father pleaded with them to save themselves. Unanimously they all said in one voice that better to die a Jew than live as a gentile.

This resolve is even stronger when not their physical life but when their spiritual life is attacked as they feel it is by the current government of Israel.

“And if we ever get to the point where they put a choice before us to do one of the three transgressions, or to be killed, we will choose death, and not a life of betrayal to the blessed Lord,” states the guide of fringe hareidi organization operating under the name “Fortress – the center for protection from draft issues," This newly founded unknown organization, at the far end of the hareidi spectrum, issued an instruction booklet pledging assistance to young haredim who receive orders to appear at IDF recruitment centers, and providing counsel on how to get out of it. The 32-page guide opens with the declaration, "The unbearable acts are before us in full intensity.”

Comparisons between the haredi draft and the Holocaust, hard to observe, appear within the guides in detail. Among other things, the booklet discusses the obligation for total sacrifice.

“We must learn from previous generations about the pride and intensity with which they gave their souls for the sanctification of Hashem (God),” the guide states.

Another section recalls the czars of Russia, who forcibly drafted Jewish children into their armies and converted some to Christianity.

The bottom line? Readers are instructed to fight with all their soul and not join the military.

According to Jewish law, one should choose death if forced to commit incest, spill blood, or worship idols, and the guide actually claims induction into the IDF is on par with these three.

This guide is but one small illustration of how far Israel has become polarized with the hareidi religious on one end of the spectrum and the post Zionist anti-religious on the other end. As a backlash, the rabbis of the hareidi community have already made the intractable commitment that “Any change that will damage the status of the Yeshiva world will cause major civil unrest and everyone is willing to go to jail over it”.

To illustrate the depth of the divide, it has been reported that when prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited Rav Ovadia Yosef at the shiva of his son, Rav Ovadia told him that even though he is mourning his son, a respected Rabbi in the hareidi world as well as the national-religious world, he is in greater pain regarding the issue of the draft of yeshiva students.

To those who do not know who Rav Ovadia is - He is a former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel,  has over 50,000 thousand books in his house, in which he knows by heart, line by line and in depth. His words have weight and insight. There may be those arrogant enough to raise questions about his style, but his cognitive abilities are unmatched in all aspects.

Recently a boy went to Rav Shteinmann- another highly respected figure in the hareidi world, asking him for ways for him to repent for voting for Bayit Yehudi. The extent of anger at Bayit Yehudi for making an agreement with Yair Lapid leaving the hareidim out can be seen in  the response.

Rav Steinmann, a soft spoken, Gadol Hador, told him “you don’t have a Kapara (repentance) for this”.

Rav Shmuel Auerbach, another hareidi Torah luminary, decreed that boys receiving a draft induction notice should not go. However, the Moetzet Gedolei Yisrael, the Council of Torah Sages,  still maintains its position: “We are asked to inform the tzibur (public, ed.)  that there has not been any change in the position of the Council since the meeting on 25 Menachem Av 5772 at which time it was decided that a ben yeshiva (student, ed.) who is called to an induction center should report. He should not fill out any forms with the exception of personal details and be M’Kadesh Shem Shomayim (bring glory to G-d's name, ed.).”

The newly elected government of Israel does not realize that it seems to have given license to attack hareidim because of the intractable differences its members are emphasizing as separating the secular and hareidi sectors.

A delivery boy cursed and attacked a haredi man while shouting "Yair Lapid should finish you off". On March 7, 2013 a delivery boy on a motorcycle who was angry at a hareidi man on Shivtei Yisrael Street in Jerusalem launched a series of curses, after which he physically attacked the chareidi. "You hareidim are free eaters, parasites, sucking the state funds." Dep. Min. MK Levy (Yesh Atid) had said the same recently.

On a larger scale, in last Thursday’s demonstration against drafting hareidim, students were beaten and choked by the very soldiers which seek to incorporate hareidim into their ranks.

A few days’ later two hareidi boys were beaten by a guard for no reason.

This despicable violence against chareidim is the fruit of hatred, the seeds planted by Minister Yair Lapid.

Why on earth would hareidim ever consider joining an army that acts toward them in that way?

And more to the point, why would the Army wish to have in their ranks those that they so abhor and find so detestable.

Why on earth would hareidim ever consider joining an army that hates them? What is the next violent step, G-d forbid?

At the end of the day, my father was horrifically and brutally killed in an anti-Semitic attack in America, land of the free.

There is an aura in the air which fosters a license to violence against those who are perceived as the enemy. The ex-border patrol soldier who killed a bank manager, the assistant bank manager and another over a 6000 shekel overdraft when the bank refused him should give us pause.

In order to avoid violence, it is well advised that tensions be diffused, perhaps by adopting MK Feiglin’s suggestion for an entirely voluntary army where soldiers are given significant incentives not only to serve, but to serve with devout dedication.

The hareidim will fight the government for punishing their boys for dodging the draft, but will not object to giving combat soldiers their due; free higher education, insurance that they can afford a home, and entry passes to high tech companies who specialize in security and military accoutrements.