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A Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
The Ultimate Objective in Drafting Yeshiva Students -- Uprooting the Torah
by Rabbi Yitzchok Roth

The big lie being spread in the lately recurring controversy about not enlisting yeshiva students in the IDF is that the critics are relying upon statistics from the Manpower Division of the Army's General Staff. These statistics are said to show a significant increase in the percentage of yeshiva students receiving deferrals from army service, calculated in proportion to the general population of eligible draft-age candidates. It is not worth arguing about these findings, although everybody knows that interested parties can always "play around" any way they wish with figures and statistics. The great fabrication, however, in the whole episode is that the critics are pretending that this increase really troubles them.

The debate about military deferral for yeshiva students, and the oft repeated demand to cancel this arrangement, started all the way back at the beginning of the State of Israel. Even at that time, when you could not measure the number of draft deferrals in percentages for the simple reason that they did not even reach a single percent, a noisy public debate took place, accompanied by considerable anti-religious sentiment.

The first prime minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, whom various anti-religious elements blame for the current deferral scheme, did not enact it willingly or because he really believed in it. Much effort was needed to convince him to tolerate the existence of the Torah World after it was almost entirely destroyed during the terrible Holocaust. Heavy pressure from the gedolei Torah who lived in that period and from the devoted representatives of the chareidi community were behind his grudging consent.

Even then it really can only be seen as a case of "The heart of kings and ministers is in Hashem's hand." It is general knowledge too that after his final departure from the post of prime minister, when asked whether he regretted any decision he had made while leading the country, Ben Gurion answered that one single decision pained him: not conscripting yeshiva students into the army.

The many reckless attacks, which are frequently not far from incitement to violence against the Torah World, do not originate with a problem about what percentage of yeshiva students receive deferrals. Their origin is the ancient hatred of amei ho'oretz for anyone with a spirit of Torah. Even if the percentage were to drop or freeze, cholila, the sharp tone of criticism would not change. The long-range objective is but one: destroying the Torah World, Rachmono litzlan.

The Torah World is the power that has transformed the neglected and marginal Torah-observant chareidi public of the State's first years into a magnificent community that is flourishing, expanding, and making its impression in every corner of the Holy Land. The anti-religious are fully aware of this. They subconsciously, or perhaps even consciously, understand that the yeshivos, botei midrash, and Torah institutions, are the secret of Torah Judaism's thriving.

The reality of our success threatens their tranquility. They are not trying to strengthen the army or safeguard the country's security. The heavy burden of reserve soldiers is not what disturbs their sleep. What bothers them is the dreadful nightmare they see becoming a waking reality: more and more secular Jews are becoming ba'alei teshuvah! This occurrence is, of course, directly due to those who are laboring over the Torah and are disseminating it all over the country.

The critics know the age old secret that Haman HoAggogi revealed when he was forced to wear sackcloth and lead his archenemy, that "primitive" Jew, through the streets of Shushan and proclaim, "So will be done for whoever who the king wishes to honor!"

The Amoleiki did not search for political reasons to explain why he had lost the king's favor and his enemy had won it. Haman did not attribute this phenomenal, radical change to Mordechai's power or status or to any earthly causes.

He simply went to the botei midrash to look for his adversary who had refused to bow to him. In the beis midrash he found bnei Torah studying Torah. Those were the "idle people" and "draft dodgers," who together with their rov, Mordechai Hayehudi, were studying the sugya of kemitzas menochos. Haman remarked: "Your kemitzah of flour has outweighed my ten thousand talents of silver" (Megilla 16a).

Eitan Haber, former chief advisor and right hand of Yitzchak Rabin, threatened that the day will come when forty thousand young men will gather in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square or in Yerushalayim's Zion Square and shrilly declare: "We refuse to be drafted to the IDF as long as there is no draft equality between us and the yeshiva boys." Haber wishes to alert the public that "this is every politician's nightmare . . . [and] lately security officials have forecast a date for this bad dream -- in about two or three years, when the yearly amount of yeshiva students freed from draft reaches ten percent. Then that bitter moment will arrive. That will be the breaking point."

Actually, it can be assumed that as long as no self- interested parties, no prominent political figures and professional anti-religious agitators, are fanning the flames of hatred, no such demonstration will ever take place. Even in another ten years nothing like that will happen. I suggest that first the new draftees organize a demonstration opposite the Military Adjutancy in Ramat Gan, another in the seemingly endless offices of the General Staff in Tel Aviv, and perhaps also near the IDF Radio Broadcasting Studios in Yaffo or at the Tel HaShomeir Enlistment Center. In these places, like many others throughout the country, thousands of young men and women are doing their military service. It is doubtful if these young people remember which end of the gun one holds and which end fires the bullet. Most of them have never been placed in posts in Lebanon or at the Syrian border, nor do they endanger their lives fighting to protect the State of Israel. Their mothers sleep peacefully at night and do not worry when the Lebanese or Syrian regions warm up. They are simply thousands and thousands of "job holders" who serve in the IDF near their homes in regular office functions.

Then again, was any inquiry ever made how many drug addicts or various types of law offenders are not recruited into the army? Let us not forget that these "elite examples of Israeli society" are a direct result of the bankrupt educational system of the State of Israel. Was a survey ever made to find out how many of them were excused from military service since the country was founded? What percentage among eligible draft- age candidates are they today?

It would be possible to go on and enumerate all of the many arguments that clearly prove the great lie enveloping the wave of incitement against the Torah World. Even the Labor Party Chairman, Ehud Barak, openly admitted what really worries him: the fact that in a few years some fifty per cent of the eligible draft-age youth will never be enlisted! Even if the forecast comes true that 10% out of these will be yeshiva students, we would still have 40% -- four times as many -- who would come from the ranks of the "golden youth" of the State of Israel.

Why does no one put the spotlight on the tens of thousands of hedonist draft dodgers who are right now evading military service and instead advancing their personal careers? Why do people only think of the yeshiva students, who are serving their country by "killing themselves in the tent of Torah"? Military officials have many times confessed that for every yeshiva student receiving a deferral there are two or three other draft-age boys receiving a full release from military service.

But, as we previously mentioned, we are dealing with a fabricated argument. Proven statistics will not convince anybody. The point here is not the drafting of yeshiva students or the outlandish proposal from Ehud Barak that they should be put into National Service "for the community." It would be preferable for Barak to check how many thousands of chareidim are already occupied in volunteer service for society, giving their time and strength and money to the needy, sick and elderly, without making any distinction between Torah-observant or not.

This campaign did not start today and will not be over tomorrow. It is a campaign of many years' standing and has taken on numerous forms and colors, but the objective is one: causing damage to the Torah and those who are engaged in studying it. Once the Hellenizers fought us, once it was the supporters of the Enlightenment Movement, then it was the Yevsektziye, and later the Shomeir HaTza'ir. The names have changed but the objective has remained the same. Now the enemies of Torah are recruiting the blood of those who have been killed in military service and the feelings of patriotism and nationalism to incite the public against the Torah and besmirch its students. As someone once said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

As I mentioned, we know well what the end objective is: uprooting the Torah. There can be, therefore, no question of compromises, discussions, or evasions when it comes to matters pivotal for the Jewish Nation -- for its real security and its right to exist. Maran the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Elazar Shach shlita, proclaimed at the opening of the Yarchei Kallah ten years ago: "A question concerning the yeshivos kedoshos is raised, and there is a vote concerning it. They think that if someone votes in a certain way so and so will happen, and if he votes differently something else will happen. What do you think? Although I am old and weak I can tell you that without a doubt when the time comes and there is a gezeira against the Torah World, I will raise my hand and say, `If I forget you, Yerushalayim' and the bnei Torah will, none of them forget Eretz Yisroel either, but all of them will go into golus, and the Torah will not be forgotten from am Yisroel! They should be aware, they should understand that this is not a children's game allowing one to do what he wants. Let them vote as they like, but it does not concern us . . .. No ben Torah will remain here if, cholila, there is a gezeira against the Torah World; and without Torah there will be no nation . . .. In the First World War there were six million Jews in Russia, and there were three Jewish representatives, all of whom used to seek advice from the gedolei Yisroel. Here in Eretz Yisroel there is a Supreme Court justice who knows nothing, and he rules against Toras Yisroel."

We can, however, say with deep conviction: "May the best side win!"

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