The Charedi approach to the war
To what extent do they support or negate the IDF?
A number of people have criticized my posts about charedi non-involvement in the war effort. They say that now is not the time. They say that I am damaging the amazing new unification of Israeli society and the Jewish nation, that I am harming achdus.
I very strongly disagree. There has indeed been amazing achdus that has been attained following the horrors of October 7th. And this is especially valuable in light of the appalling rift that Bibi and his enablers created over the past two and a half years and which was exarcebated by others. But not everyone is part of this newfound move towards unity. There is not total achdus. There is still work to be done.
Revealing the non-existence of achdus is not harming achdus. Criticizing people for harming achdus is not harming achdus. (And if it is, then those people who are criticizing me are also harming achdus!)
Yes, it’s upsetting and demoralizing to realize that things are not as wonderful as you hoped (and I’m not forcing anyone to read my posts). But so is finding out that there are rabbis who are predators. This is not adequate reason to avoid knowing about the problem.
(Interestingly, in general, the people who criticize me for these posts do not have children in uniform.)
Knowledge is important. It’s crucial to know what the situation actually is. It is relevant in so many ways - deciding who to vote for, which causes to support, which community to affiliate with, which rabbis to look to for guidance, which influences to expose our children to, who needs outreach, who is representative of a community and who is not. And you can’t fix deficiences in achdus if you’re not even aware of the nature of the problem.
And as for the timing - now is precisely the time to talk about it, because now is the time when people care about such things and will form a proper opinion and will start to think about what action needs to be taken.
So, what is the charedi approach to the war? There is no answer to that question because the question is phrased incorrectly. There is no single charedi approach to the war. The charedi community is not monolithic.
There aren’t any charedi families who are as involved as non-charedi families, i.e. sending all their children to the army (except perhaps some people who can barely be classified as charedi). Still, there are a range of approaches to be found:
Group A: At one end you have some older charedi men who recently signed up for the IDF in a limited support role.
Group B: Then there are those who provide material support in terms of food for soldiers and other supplies.
Group C: Then there are those who don’t engage in any physical support, but engage in extra spiritual activities, study and prayer, which is dedicated as a merit to the soldiers. (I must point out, though, that if they are shirking their obligations, there isn’t necessarily any merit in their spiritual activities; but at least it does show some emotional connection).
Group D: Then there are those who will do extra spiritual activities for “Klal Yisrael at this time of hardship” but refuse to highlight or even specify the IDF.
Group E: And then there are those who don’t do anything at all, either because they are oblivious to the war, or because they are in principle opposed to any acknowledgement of national issues.
(And then on the very extreme end there are the handful of Neturei Karta, who actively support our enemies.)
So there are a range of approaches. While none of them are fully acceptable from a non-charedi perspective, there is a world of difference between the different groups. But how many people are there in each group?
The other day, I saw someone comment that the overwhelming majority of charedim in Israel are invested in supporting the IDF, one way or another, and far outnumber those who negate consideration of the IDF. I asked him, “How do you know?” It might be true and it might be false. He didn’t actually have any evidence for that assertion. But I can understand why he said it. It’s the same phenomenon that happened in World War Two.
During WWII, the Allied forces had to figure out which parts of the plane most needed armor protection. So researchers from the Center for Naval Analyses studied the bullet holes which appeared on returning planes, and found that the bullet holes occurred in the following places:
Accordingly, the researchers recommended that the areas with the red dots should receive the armor plating. It's obvious!
But Abraham Wald, a religious Jewish statistician who had escaped Austria, pointed out that exactly the opposite was true. The planes with the bullet holes in these areas were the ones that had survived the missions and returned. It was the planes which had been hit in the other areas which had not survived the mission.
This is known as survivorship bias, and it is a form of selection bias. It's noticing that which is visible, without realizing that the thing which is not visible might be more significant.
Likewise, the 2000 charedim who signed up to join the IDF in a limited capacity, and the various efforts by people in the charedi community to help soldiers and their families, and initiatives to pray for soldiers or make them tzitzis, receive publicity and videos. The charedim who aren’t doing anything don’t get publicity. Accordingly, it’s very difficult to form an accurate picture of the situation.
In a forthcoming post, I am going to be sharing a very disturbing video from a rabbi in the charedi world. I will introduce it in such a way as to place it in context as best as I can - making clear, to the best of my knowledge, who it does not represent, and who it does represent. It’s important to know that such things exist.
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