Yom HaZikaron and Charedim: The Bad, The Ugly, and the Amazing
There are three approaches to Yom HaZikaron that are found in the charedi community.
By far the most common is that which I practiced during my years in the charedi community: obliviousness and indifference. For the vast majority of charedim, Yom HaZikaron just doesn't register for them. They don't know anyone in the IDF, and they don't want to be part of the national community that is mourning those who fell in battle. If they happen to be walking in the streets while the siren sounds, then they may well stand still out of good neighborly relations, but otherwise they don't see any reason why this day should be significant.
For a very small minority of charedim, most of whom live down the street from me, a truly disgusting approach is taken. They will steal Israeli flags from cars and homes, and they will holler and jeer during the siren. The Beit Shemesh municipality even had to ask the police to safeguard the flags in the military portion of the local cemetery, after they were twice ripped down in the last few days. The flag destruction is very, very upsetting to local Zionist residents - it is done mostly by children, but often accompanied by laughing adults - yet unfortunately there does not seem to be any solution.
Another small minority of charedim take the opposite approach - actively commemorating Yom HaZikaron. There is an Anglo-charedi-lite shul in my city which encourages its members to watch Yom HaZikaron ceremonies and visit military cemeteries. And here is an extraordinary video about the amazing Rabbi Menachem Bombach and his chassidic school in Beitar, showing how they meaningfully commemorate Yom HaZikaron: (If you are reading this via email subscription, you will have to visit www.RationalistJudaism.com to watch the video)
I usually do not like predicting the future, except in hindsight. Still, my prediction is that Rabbi Bombach's approach will spread further, due to its obvious ethical value. Yet it will do so very minimally. The reason is that for most charedim, there is too great a fear that by teaching the children about the great sacrifices made by heroic soldiers, there is a risk that the children may want to join the IDF. That is why charedi rabbanim have opposed praying for the welfare of soldiers. There are only a few brave souls who recognize that this fear should not outweigh the importance of showing care and concern for our brothers and sons who place their lives on the line for all of us.
May Hashem comfort all those who have lost relatives and friends in the struggle for Israel's survival.