What Is Real Achdus?
A number of people were very upset with the previous post, about charedi responses to the IDF mission in Gaza. Some of these people are charedim who naturally object to any criticism of their community. But others were not charedi at all (although I am pretty sure that they do not live in Israel and are not serving or sending their sons to serve in the IDF). They accused me of attempting to ruin the amazing achdus that has been achieved in the last month.
Before I explain where I am coming from, let us perform a thought experiment. As is well known, the major budget cutbacks for the charedi population in Israel have resulted in much hostility from the charedim towards the government. Now, imagine if the government were to go even further and entirely cut off all financial benefits to the charedi population. However, at the same time, the members of the government, and their voters, promise the charedi population that they love them and will sincerely pray for their financial wellbeing. The reaction from the charedi community would be one of rage - and they would understandably not consider their criticism of the government to be a breach in achdus!
Achdus does not just mean saying nice things about other people or praying for them. It means sharing joint concerns and responsibilities.
With this in mind, I hope that you can understand where I am coming from. Six months ago, nearly half a million charedim and charedi wannabees rallied in Jerusalem and declared Shefoch chamascha on the Israeli government and its supporters who would extend a partial equality in the draft to charedim (and they were not at all concerned that this was a breach of achdus). Looking at the faces of the 64 brave young men who sacrificed their lives for us this past month, one sees that they are all national-religious or secular Zionist. To people like me, whose children will probably one day be serving in the IDF during another Gaza war, this is extremely distressing. When certain charedi spokesmen/ apologists proudly crow about the amazing care and involvement of the charedi community in this war, presenting it as equal or even superior to the work of the IDF, this adds insult to injury (and it was hearing such claims that motivated me to write the post).
I will conclude by quoting an illuminating comment from my good friend and neighbor David Bar-Cohn:
When I think about the enormity of what my wife and I invest every single day with each of our kids, on every level - physical, emotional and otherwise, being ever so careful about every detail of their lives - the LAST thing I would possibly want to do is put my precious sons at risk of life and limb, exposing them to the hell of war, witnessing bloodshed and death, going head-to-head with terrorists. It's literally a living nightmare. Yet I know it would be immoral not to be prepared to do that. No, not everyone is cut out for actual battle. And there are plenty of other jobs that need to be done in the army, after all. I don't know what my sons will choose - some may be fighters, others not. Either way is okay by me. But that's an individual decision, NOT a communal one. It is wrong for a whole sector of society not to assume the same risks as everyone else, even if they believe they are making other contributions.
Honestly, I don't know how I'll be able to look many of my friends in the face if and when I have a son exposed to war, while they simply take a "pass" and try to justify it on religious grounds.