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Soldiers, Draft-Dodgers, and Deserters
As a citizen of Israel, I will be sending my son(s) to the army. Frankly, it terrifies me, and my children. In fact, for this very reason, I renounced my son's Israeli citizenship at birth (at the time, I was not Israeli, and so I could do that.) But I've come to recognize that it's not a matter of whether it fits in with our plans; it's a matter of having an obligation to our country.
Most charedim do not serve in the army. Their alleged reason for this is that they allegedly believe that their Torah studies perform a vital service for the country. True, it involves much less mesiras nefesh, but it provides metaphysical protection that would supposedly be fatally compromised if they were to take off several months to train and serve in a military capacity.
Let's take them at their word, for now. And let us ask a question: Is this metaphysical protection that their Torah provides, something that is spread equally for Jews throughout the world? Or is it most concentrated in the places where they are?
It seems that the latter is the case. The Yerushalmi, Chagigah 1:7, speaks about teachers of Torah being the protectors of the city - i.e., their city. In general, reason indicates that if one accepts the concept of zechus - merits created by good deeds - that they spread outwards, decreasing in intensity with distance. A person's merits are strongest for his immediate family, and for those in his town. For righteous people to have saved Sodom, they would have had to have been living in Sodom.
The charedi world agrees. The Chazon Ish, and, yibedal lechaim, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, said that Bnei Brak is safe from missiles. The Torah study of that town apparently protects it, and it alone. Likewise, when the 300-strong Grodno yeshivah relocated from Ashdod to Bet Shemesh last week due to the war in the South, a prominent Torah scholar in Bet Shemesh was quoted in the Chadash weekly as stating that "We have no doubt that the efforts of the residents of Bet Shemesh, such that the sound of Torah should not cease from one yeshivah, is the 'iron dome' of the city; it is the true protection, and the cause that our residents have not been part of the bloodshed." The merits of those facilitating Torah study provide protection that is greatest in its immediate locale.
Well, if that's the case, why didn't they stay in Ashdod?
If their whole excuse for not serving the military is that they provide metaphysical protection, then why can't they provide it where it's needed? Bet Shemesh was never at serious risk (and nor was Bnei Brak). It's Ashdod, where the Grodno yeshivah was housed, that needs protection! If charedim believe that they are protecting the country with their Torah, then let them do it! The yeshivos should be relocating from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem to the South, not the other way around!
In the previous Gulf War, Rav Elyashiv reportedly said that Tifrach yeshivah should stay put and rely on the protection that its Torah provides, but Grodno, which is in the much more dangerous town of Ashdod, should relocate, since one cannot pray for a miracle. Okay, so it's more dangerous; but isn't that even more reason for them to stay, and help protect the residents? Soldiers don't go where it's safest; they go where they are needed to protect the population!
Adding insult to injury is that not only do charedim avoid bearing their share of the security burden; they demand that others take even greater risks. The cover of Mishpachah magazine this week asked "Will Israel stop short again?" which, as a friend pointed out, translates to their demand for the IDF to keep fighting. The newspaper Mekor Rishon conducted a survey of different sectors of the population asking if the IDF should have taken the dangerous step of sending ground troops into Gaza; the sector of the population in which the most said yes was the charedi sector (at 58%). They don't want to risk the lives of their own children; only the lives of other peoples' children!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't think that even charedim really believe that their Torah provides protection; they avoid army because it threatens their lifestyle, and they don't see themselves as having much of a responsibility to the country. They are just draft-dodgers. But if one does believe that their Torah provides protection - that they are not avoiding the draft, but are instead serving in the army of Hashem - then their actions during war reveal that they are deserters.