Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Big IDF Lie

There's a shocking headline in the news today. It turns out that for several years, the IDF has been deliberately falsifying the number of charedim that enlist, in order to give the appearance of meeting draft goals. To quote from The Jerusalem Post:
Although it was previously thought as much as 35% of haredi men of military age were serving in the IDF, in reality that less than 15% are serving in the military... The real figures mean that the targets for haredi enlistment over the last five years have been missed by huge margins and previous assumptions that steady albeit slow progress on the goal of increasing the number of haredi men in military service are totally wrong... The upshot of the revelations are that the state has almost totally failed in its goal to increase equality in the burden of military service...

To be honest, I personally was not surprised (and I think that even 15% sounds too high). Over the last few years, a number of people have argued that charedim are gradually joining the IDF, with many thousands of charedim signing up, but these claims never made sense to me. I live in a predominantly charedi town, and if there were so many charedim in the IDF, I would have been aware of it!

Furthermore, it's been clear to me for a while that many so-called charedim in the IDF are not charedi at all. Nachal Charedi (Netzach Yehudah), for example, is often touted as an example of charedim integrating into the IDF. Now, Nachal Charedi is certainly a wonderful institution, but it's not what people think. Many of its recruits are Dati-leumi boys who want a higher standard of kashrus and so on. Ironically, the Jerusalem Post article linked abovet has a photo of a "charedi soldier", provided by Nachal Charedi and shown here - but he's not wearing a black kippah! Many others in Nachal Charedi come from charedi homes, but are going against what their families wanted for them, and have dropped out of charedi society.

No doubt the revelation that the IDF has been lying about charedi recruitment will be met with demands of forced conscription. And it is clear that there is no adequate halachic basis for mass refusal to conscript, and certainly no ethical basis. Moshe Rabeinu's call rings as true today as ever: "Shall your brethren go to war, while you remain here?"

Nevertheless, I think that calls of forcing charedim to join the IDF are futile and counterproductive. It's just not going to happen. You can't force communities of hundreds of thousands of people to enlist if they are utterly opposed to it. They would rather go to prison, and there isn't enough prison space for all of them. It would just cause civil war.

So what can be done? Not a lot (although more could be done to strengthen institutions such as Rabbi Karmi Gross's Derech Chaim). But there's a much bigger problem than charedim not enlisting in the IDF: it's charedim creating a society which shuns secular education and sees living off charity as preferable to working. This is what could lead to the collapse of the country. And that's a problem that can be solved, albeit slowly and with difficulty. It requires a multi-pronged strategy, including financially incentivizing charedi schools to provide a rudimentary secular education (and penalizing those which don't) - and perhaps even relaxing the draft laws.

Yes, that's right. Much as it is wrong and unfair for an entire sector of Israel society not to serve in the IDF, we have to face reality. And the reality is that in the long run, Israel needs charedim to be a part of the economy. It's crucial to get them out into the legal workforce, rather than being in kollel out of a desire to avoid the draft. That's where the emphasis needs to be, as unfair as it is.

I'm not saying that Israel should simply automatically exempt charedim from enlisting - that would be too much of an unfair social burden on the rest of society. I'm saying that the focus needs to be strategic, on creative ways to integrate charedim into society, rather than insisting on the principle of equality vis-a-vis the draft.

And for those of us with any influence on charedi society - we have to be clear as to what the Torah requires. Both clear in our own minds, and able to clearly convey it to others. I received a call the other day from a rabbinic colleague in Har Nof, who told me that he's noticed certain trends in the pitches delivered by charedim collecting money in shul. One frequently recurring theme is a person with a dozen children collecting for medical expenses for his wife, who is suffering from mental health problems. No kidding! Another common type of appeal is from a young chosson, saying that his father is overburdened from marrying off all his older siblings, and so he is helping his father by collecting for himself!

We have to make it clear: Working to support one's family and to be a productive member of society is not a yetzer hara and is not a bedi'eved. It's an imperative. There's no hope of getting charedi society to share the burden of defending the country, but we have to try our best to influence them to support themselves and the economy.

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  1. Bear in mind that there are many charedim serving in the army in non-combat roles. There are programming units, rabbanut positions etc.
    It's sad that the army inflated the figures that they gave.
    It would also be interesting to see the numbers of hilonim dodging the draft, which is no small amount!

    1. Any charedi serving in non-combat roles would count toward the total. After all, lots of non-charedim serve in non-combat roles. The simple fact is that very few are.

      And "no small amount of hilonim dodging the draft" is a false charedi meme. Virtually no hilonim dodge the draft, and very few receive legal exemptions either. (And, of course, hiloni women serve too.)

    2. I think that about 90% of soldiers serve in non-combat roles, as a matter of fact. Perhaps a bit less, but definitely the vast majority.

  2. First and foremost, the "Haredim" have to be taught authentic Torah - it is TORAH mitzvah to work for a living, just like our forefather's did. It is a TORAH mitzvah to defend Eretz Yisrael, just like our forefather's did. It is a TORAH mitzvah to be educated in secular studies, as well Torah studies, just like our Sages did. It is a TORAH mitzvah to love and respect your fellow Jew - even if he is chiloni, just like a human being.

    1. There are a number of Gdolim throughout the generations which have listed the TORAH mitzvot (such as the Rambam, Sm"g, etc.). Could you please tell me who lists
      1. "work for a living"
      2. "to be educated in secular studies"
      as TORAH mitzvot and the exact reference where I could find them?

    2. It's actually a Chazal. (Numerous Chazals, in fact.)

    3. Could you please cite where they are clearly expressed as *Torah* (i.e., d'oraita) mitzvot. I've never seen that and would be very interested to.

    4. Just wondering - can someone define "secular studies" for me? Does learning towards a parna'sa count as secular studies? Would becoming an apprentice plumber be considered "secular studies?

    5. It's a befeyreshe de'orayso: sheyshes yomim ta'avod.
      The rambam lists as a mitsvas asei to teach your son a trade.

    6. We say it every day in Krias Shma: "v'asafta d'gan'cha."

      And of course the Rambam gets the halacha from the Gemara in Kiddushin 29a:

      (translation from Sefaria, with all of the limitations thereof):
      The Gemara comments: According to this interpretation, we learn in this mishna that which the Sages taught in a baraita: A father is obligated with regard to his son to circumcise him, and to redeem him if he is a firstborn son who must be redeemed by payment to a priest, and to teach him Torah, and to marry him to a woman, and to teach him a trade. And some say: A father is also obligated to teach his son to swim. Rabbi Yehuda says: Any father who does not teach his son a trade teaches him banditry [listut]. The Gemara expresses surprise at this statement: Can it enter your mind that he actually teaches him banditry? Rather, the baraita means that it is as though he teaches him banditry. Since the son has no profession with which to support himself, he is likely to turn to theft for a livelihood. This baraita accords with Rav Yehuda’s interpretation of the mishna.

      End of quote

      Of course, who teaches their kid to swim anymore? Rambam does not include that one...

      Hmmm. On the listut issue, anyone want to make the argument that the chareidi velt is "extorting" money from those who do work with segulas, sob stories, and superiority (as in "our learning is so important")?

    7. Gemara Makos 8b states explicitly that it mitzvah to teach your son a trade. It goes so far as to say that if you accidently kill your son during corporal punishment to spur him on in the teaching of a trade, then you are patur from Galus.

      גמ' האב גולה ע"י הבן והאמרת יצא האב המכה את בנו דגמיר והאמרת אע"ג דגמיר מצוה קעביד בשוליא דנגרי

      gemara The mishna teaches: The father is exiled to a city of refuge due to his unintentional murder of his son. The Gemara asks: But didn’t you say in the previous mishna: To exclude a father who strikes his son, who is not exiled? The Gemara answers: This mishna is referring to a son who is learned, and there is no mitzva to strike him; therefore, since the striking is optional, the father is exiled. The Gemara asks: But didn’t you say: Even if the son is learned, the father performs a mitzva by striking his son? The Gemara answers: This ruling of the mishna is stated with regard to a carpenter’s apprentice [bishevaleya]. Since the father is teaching his son carpentry, not Torah, there is no mitzva to strike him to spur him to study.

      שוליא דנגרי חיותא היא דלמדיה דגמיר אומנותא אחריתי:

      The Gemara challenges: In the case of a carpenter’s apprentice, his father is teaching him a livelihood, which is also a mitzva. The Gemara answers: The reference is to a son who has already learned another craft, and since he is able to earn his livelihood there is no mitzva to teach him a second craft.

    8. Rav Aryeh Carmel, who is one of the few Rabbonim who seems to have reiterated support for R.D.N. Slifkin's books wrote the following in Michtav M'Eliyahu, vol. 1, page 188:

      אך יעיינו נא בדברי מסלת ישרים הנ"ל וילמדו לדעת לדעת כי אין ההשתדלות מצוה כלל, אלא קנס וקללה, ודי בקצת ממנה. .... וצדקת המפרנס אשתו ובניו היא במה
      שמפרנסם מהכסף שהרויח, אבל לעולם לא ירויח יותר בשביל שישתדל יותר
      "See in the words of Mesilat Yesharim referenced above and learn to know that hishtadlut [for parnassah] is not a mitzvah at all, rather [it is] a penalty and a curse, and [it is] enough in small [measure] of it. And the righteousness of the one who provides for his wife and children is in that he provides for them from the money he has gained, but never will he gain more for being mishtadel more."

  3. Not going to argue with your points but just for the sake of clarity
    this is the official statement by the IDF
    The IDF denied on Wednesday the allegation stating that the Jewish ultra-Orthodox recruiting data was falsified, saying that "the incident will be investigated and the data was presented to IDF Chief Aviv Kochavi a few weeks ago."
    In the process, he appointed Maj. Gen. Ronnie Nome to examine the data collection of ultra-Orthodox soldiers for the IDF in 2011-2018.

  4. If only My people would hearken to Me, if Israel would go in My ways.
    In a short time I would subdue their enemies and upon their enemies I would return My hand (Tehillim 81:14-15).
    Those who understand this would also understand that the security of Israel is not a function of the numbers of people who serve, but the function of the number who keep Torah. If they conscript thousands of Torah learners, the state will loose more than gain anything. For lapids and liebermans this is just a political issue that gets them votes of Torah haters.

    1. Why do you assume that "thousands of Torah learners" have anything to do with how many Jews are upholding Mitzvot?

    2. Because talmud Torah k'neged kulam.

    3. Lazar, it's amazing how you quote a passuk and immediately completely pervert its meaning. The passuk doesn't say that the security of Israel is a function of those who *learn* Torah, it says that its a function of those who *keep* Torah.
      P.S. Waterman, "talmud Torah k'neged kulam" is an exaggeration.

    4. So you're saying that no one who serves in the IDF learns?

    5. How about VaYikra 26:3: "Im b'chukosai telechu", on which Torat Kohanim (26:2) says "Shetihyu Amelim BaTorah".

    6. Because talmud Torah k'neged kulam

      I have often wondered about how this catechism is used. Does this mean that as long as I study full time in Yeshiva or Beit Midrash, I have no need to worry about kashrut, shabbat, Kibud Av veEm, or teaching my son (child) a trade?

      If this is not so... well Waterman, you have added nothing to the conversation.

    7. Because talmud Torah k'neged kulam

      Waterman, i should have added - obligations towards milchemt mitzvah

    8. Regarding the misuse of the phrase Talmud Torah Keneged Kulam- see

  5. If jailing draft dodgers will not work, how about financial penalties? Basically write a law that anyone who does not serve without good cause will never receive any child allowances or credits or government welfare of any kind. This would have the multiple effects of saving the government money, providing additional incentive to work so as to not starve, perhaps slowing the birth rate that leads to so much poverty, and not having to involve the criminal justice system.

    1. You are not being realistic. The army doesn't need or want charedim. In fact it doesn't need a lot of the soldiers it has already. I know first hand that there are bases where the soldiers are walking around bored because there is nothing for them to do.

      So let's get real. Keeping the draft provides a steady supply of people for the army, but there's no need to try to get all those eligible to comply, they are simply not needed. Much of the left wing elite doesn't go either, it's not just a charedi issue.

      Part of the reason that the kollel movement expanded so dramatically was the law that yeshiva bochurim could not join the workforce, so they ended up in kollelim; you are just prolonging that story. Let go, accept that chareidim are not needed (or wanted) in the army, and allow them to go to work. They will.

    2. This is the best solution. If anti-army charedim are put in jail for not going to the army, they look like martyrs. If they can go on with their lives but lose money and complain about it, they just look selfish.

      This would also allow charedim to be freed from army service immediately which would allow their integration in the job market - perhaps a more important issue than the army service itself.

  6. In 2011, Hamodia wrote an article whose subtitle was "An interview with Ariel S..., chareidi counterterrorism specialist and IDF commando." Ariel is from my kehila in America, and he made aliyah and joined the IDF. He was a top recruit in his elite unit. He may have been the only religious man in his unit. It was a very nice article, but if the interviewer spoke to him (and she did, in person), she would have easily concluded that Ariel was not chareidi. Orthodox, yes, but not chareidi.

  7. I agree 100% that the main issue is Hareidim living off welfare rather than draft dodging. While it is inherently extremely unfair that Hareidim are exempt from the draft, Israel can survive without Hareidim in the army. However, Israel cannot survive with: (1) a perpetually shrinking percentage of the population that participates in the labor force, and (2) a perpetually increasing percentage of the labor force that is only qualified to perform unskilled jobs that will either be performed by robots in the near future or can be done in places like China for a fraction of the cost.

    The way to get Hareidim off welfare is very simple practically (although not politically): stop paying people to learn in kollel and instead institute a work requirement. Make welfare recipients actually work for their money by building roads, planting trees, clearing debris, etc. This will rapidly incentivize them to get off welfare and get real jobs in the private economy.

    Of course people who believe that tens of thousands of Hareidi men learning in kollel provide Israel with some mystical shield will oppose this, but it should be welcomed by everyone who is rationally minded.

  8. Working will not solve the financial problems of people with 12 children unless they have very lucrative incomes. Speaking out against the phenomenon is really a call for haredim to have smaller families.

    1. Everyone should only have the number of children they can reasonably support. It's called being responsible. Perhaps if the government only provided child allowances on the first four children that would also help.

    2. I agree. People should be responsible.

    3. Having a large number of children benefits everyone because there will be more people available to serve in the military. I presume Chareidim would all serve in the face of an existential crisis.

    4. No! Chareidim will not serve in the military, as made plain in Slifkin's essay. People need to be responsible. In fact, most people who have children shouldn't be having children at all. G-d will not prevent a missile strike if we sit passive, contributing nothing to society and growth, allowing the Arabs to send missile. that is not how you defend a country.

    5. Perhaps, Avraham, but it's not an all-or-nothing issue. Would we prefer a family of 12 completely supported by charity or a family of 12 where there is an income that can support 6 people well enough, leaving the rest for charity (of course that will mean support 12 people meagerly, with the rest made up by tzedakah)? Obviously, any self-support would be welcome.

      As far as the having too many children issue in the first place, is birth control a bigger or smaller yehareg v'al yaavor than army service? We will leave that as an exercise for the reader...

  9. Ok, I was with you till this :"P.S. Waterman, "talmud Torah k'neged kulam" is an exaggeration." I'm sure you say these words each and every day.

    1. Not only do I say these words every day, I've even studied what they actually mean!

  10. Military service in Tzahal (IDF) would seem to be a mitzva as per
    the gemara in Sotah 44b. The definition of "milchemet mitzva"
    is to fight defensive wars against an attacker and to ensure that
    Israel remains under Jewish rule (see: Radbaz Hilchot Melachim 7:4).
    See also the Minchat Chinuch (Mitzva 425) who goes into detail on the
    laws of war. War is required in what's termed a "Milchemet Mitzva" and
    is permitted in what's termed a "Milchemet Reshut".

    Even a talmid chacham is obligated to serve (see: Chidushei Chatam Sofer on
    the gemara in Bava Batra 7b [appears on 8a d"h menadeh]. He indicates
    that a talmid chacham is *not* exempt from an act that prevents
    danger e.g. guard duty and I quote: "aval shmira k'derech shemalchut
    nishmarim ... gam talmid chacham chayav k'd'mocheach Mi'haMordechai
    Bava Batra Perek Aleph Siman 475]; SHU'T haRadbaz Chelek Bet Siman 752).

    Look at Shmuel haNagid (Abu Ibrahim Shmuel ben Yosef halevi Ibn Nagrela,
    993-1056 C.E.), one of the leaders of Spanish Jewry. He was not only a great
    talmudic scholar (he wrote the Sefer Hilcheta Gavrata which was a major
    influence on the RIF (Rav Yitzchak Alfassi) and the Introduction to the
    Talmud) but the prime minister (Vizier) of Granada and commander in chief
    of the army of Granada where as military leader he won a major battle
    in 1038 against the army of Almeria and a major victory in 1039 over the
    army of Seville.

    He wasn't exactly kvetching in a yeshiva all day :-)

  11. why not change the law and tie welfare and voting rights to army ? exempt haredim from army , but have them as residents not citizens , so they need not bother with voting or welfare?

  12. "Israel needs charedim to be a part of the economy. It's crucial to get them out into the legal workforce, rather than being in kollel out of a desire to avoid the draft." This is Maimonides' lesson.

    Neither passive piety nor study of the Torah, Talmud, or mystical tracts bring people to G-d. A person who spends all his time in prayer does not live a saintly life and does not come close to G-d. Those who contribute nothing to society, reject the joys of this world are definitely not pious, nor can they be called appropriately human. Aristotle wrote that being really human is using ones’ intelligence. The intellect is what separates us from animals, this is the meaning of the “image of G-d.” Near the end of his Guide, Maimonides writes a parable about Talmudic scholars stumbling outside G-d’s palace, never quite finding the entrance. Solitary contemplation in total seclusion is not want G-d wants? G-d desires people to use their intellect and the five senses He gave them. It is foolish to think that G-d wants people to rely on Him and not rely on themselves. Which begs the question, who is a true Torah-observant Jew? The ideal Jew, or at least what G-d wants Jews to be is a Jew who knows both philosophy and science, metaphysics and Torah, as well as secular subjects, and uses that knowledge to develop their intellect to improve themselves and society. In short, to be all that they can be.

  13. There is this organization called Karen Kemach that helps Haredim integrate into the work force. I think they would be a good place to donate Rav Slifkin, are you familiar?

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  15. I randomly came across this article and was struck by the pic.

    The photo is of Eli Kay HYD, who was a friend of mine.interesting that he is the stock photo of a religious soldier you happened to pick two years before he was murdered...


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