"…Of late I hear unnecessary calls to put it mildly against haredim and against students in hesder yesivas [Zionist Orthodox yeshivas that combine 16 months of military service, often much of it in combat roles, with separate years of yeshiva study], who serve in combat units and give their lives for the army and are now slandered by people who have not seen a battlefield in their lives.…"
Minister Naftali Bennett, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right
MK Naftali Bennett – the chairman of the Zionist Orthodox HaBayit HaYehudi Party who serves as Israel's Diaspora, Religious Services And Economy Minister all rolled into one – wrote the following (translation courtesy of Yeshiva World, with some minor editing by me) on his Facebook page after the new proposed universal military draft law passed its first Knesset reading earlier this week:
…For decades we have known that haredim must be integrated into the workplace. Only this government with its present makeup actually did it.
The law that was passed now by the Shaked Committee is balanced and intelligent and recognizes Torah study as a value and service.
Of late I hear unnecessary calls to put it mildly against haredim and against students in hesder yesivas [Zionist Orthodox yeshivas that combine 16 months of military service, often much of it in combat roles, with separate years of yeshiva study], who serve in combat units and give their lives for the army and are now slandered by people who have not seen a battlefield in their lives. There are calls against non-Orthodox, against people who are different from us. This must stop and public representatives have a responsibility to stop the impassioned discourse.
We must now lower the tone, roll up our sleeves and focus on the real task, integrating thousands of haredim in the Israeli workplace.…
Four main points:
1. The people making those "unnecessary calls" against and "slander[ing]" "haredim and hesder yeshiva students" are not, as Bennett deceptively implies, "people who have not seen a battlefield in their lives." They are Israelis who serve in the IDF or the IDF reserves and fill whatever roles the IDF assigns to them, many of which are combat roles.
2. These people demanding equality in IDF service do so not only becuase they risk their lives while haredim do not, but becuase they serve 3 years active duty while hesder yeshiva soldiers only serve 16 months and haredim, with only a tiny number of exceptions, do not serve in the IDF at all.
3. For Bennett, the new draft law is not about getting haredim to serve in the IDF – it's about removing the legal barrier caused by draft dodging that until now has prohibited most haredi men from legally working. Essentially, Bennett and his colleagues don't care about equality or responsibility in the need to defend Israel. For them, it is perfectly fine for secular Jews to bear the brunt of that burden and for Zionist Orthodox to bear an unproportionately small part of it. And that young haredim will essentially be able to walk out of their yeshivas, be admitted to government funded education programs and enter the workforce in decent paying jobs all before secular Israelis of the same age have finished their mandatory three-year term of duty in the IDF? That does not bother Bennett and his ilk much, if at all. But it does bother those secular Israelis who are left behind as a result.
4. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's and his Likud Party's continual grovelling at the feet of haredi leaders in Likud's endless search for a way to retain political power and the decision of Bennett's Zionist Orthodox HaBayit HaYehudi Party to make trades with haredim in order to keep the amount of time hesder students serve in the IDF low has doomed Israel to decades more inequality and an increased burden for secular Israelis – who, it should be remembered, make up the vast majority of the country's Jewish population.