The Letter of the Mothers
A Powerful Statement
One of the strangest reactions that I’ve received over my posts about charedim not serving in the IDF is the claim that most national-religious Jews don’t mind. While I have no doubt that there are some national-religious Jews who don’t mind, certainly there are very many who are extremely upset about it. This is all the more true since October 7th, when hundreds of IDF soldiers have fallen and many others have been injured, including a large number from the national-religious community, but none from the charedi community. In the national religious community, life has been taken over by army service, and the challenges and anxiety that this creates for the families of soldiers, whereas charedi society essentially continues as normal.
Recently, Dr. Tehila Elitzur, a popular Torah teacher at Herzog College, released a public letter to the women of the charedi community, which is being signed by a constantly growing list of women from both the national religious and secular communities. Here it is, in English translation:
An Open Letter to our Haredi Sisters:
These words are written with a trembling hand and a heavy heart.
We, the mothers and wives of soldiers and female soldiers in mandatory service and in the reserves, are now turning to you, the mothers of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students:
Call on your sons to enlist in the IDF
We know that many of you have shared in our grief and bereavement over the fallen for many years and especially in the difficult days since Simchat Torah. In the last two months, we have seen the help and solidarity efforts of ultra-Orthodox women in a variety of ways to help families of evacuees and families of fallen soldiers. We know that many are praying for the welfare of the soldiers, the healing of the wounded and the return of the hostages.
We are also aware that you, like the whole of ultra-Orthodox society, attach great importance to Torah study and see in it a supreme value and even assistance in safeguarding the people of Israel. But none of these can replace enlisting in the IDF. This is the Jewish, moral and civil duty of anyone who wishes to live here. The absence of that standard constitutes a distinction between blood and blood. This reality is no longer bearable.
For those who think that their son is not suited for military service, we say: Many of our children are not suited to be soldiers. None of them are suited to die in war. None of us are suited to sending our child to risk his life. We all do this because it is impossible to live here without an army, and we are all responsible for one another: it cannot be that others will take risks and risk their children for me, when I and my children will not take risks for them. My blood is not redder than theirs.
We have given up hope in the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox society, the heads of yeshivos and kollels, politicians and askanim.
Throughout the generations, women in Israel have known how to act with courage and sacrifice, where Gedolim and leaders failed. We believe that here, too, the correction can start with the wives and mothers of Israel.
Our request to you is unbearably difficult, but there is nothing more justified and moral, because each of us carries this difficulty from the day their child is born. We call on you to take the lead on these necessary steps, to fulfill together with all of us the commandments of “You shall not stand by your neighbor’s blood” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Call on your sons to enlist in the IDF.
We pledge to support you. We would be happy to meet to talk, and think together about how we will act towards this step.
It is thanks to righteous women that Israel was redeemed. May it be that thanks to you and thanks to the sons who will be enlist, that He who makes peace in the highest places will make peace for us and for all of Israel.
The letter is followed by the signatures of hundreds upon hundreds of women. Each one has signed not only their name and home city, but also listed their spouses and/or children serving in the IDF.
I do not think that this letter alone will bring about change. But it is something that needs to be said. As they write, the current reality is no longer bearable. And every bit of effort helps to create the political and resultant financial pressure that may bring about change.
Please forward this letter - both to women who have husbands or sons in the IDF, for them to add their signatures, and to those in the charedi community who need to read it. And to those who claim that it “harms achdut,” I will quote Dr. Elitzur from an interview: “You can’t talk about hurting achdut where there is no achdut.”
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