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Courtesy of walking out of a military musical performance Photo: Efi Shrir
Courtesy of walking out of a military musical performance Photo: Efi Shrir
 
 

Keep our army Jewish

Op-ed: IDF must cater to religious soldiers if it hopes to integrate all Jewish groups into army

Cori Widen
Published: 09.13.11, 19:35 / Israel Opinion

Yair Lapid’s mistake lies in the fact that he confuses what religious Jews believe to be laws, and desires. Observant Jews operate based on the belief that there are a certain set of complex laws by which all Jews must live. It is certainly the right of every soldier to reject these laws or to interpret them differently; no one is questioning the existence of free will.

 

That being said, even one who rejects this religious legal system can be expected to be intellectually honest about the fact that a secular soldier who does not want to listen to a rabbinical lecture is expressing a desire, whereas a religious soldier who walks out of a concert because a woman is singing is, from his perspective, fulfilling a religious legal duty.

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The IDF, in general, goes out of its way to make certain that soldiers have the ability to serve in the army and to live halachically, should they so choose. If you’ve served in the IDF, you could rattle off a list of examples without much effort: all of the food in the army is kosher (and no exceptions are made for secular soldiers who are in the mood for a cheeseburger), soldiers are given time to pray three times each day at the appropriate times, there is a synagogue on every base where soldiers who are not currently in combat are able to pray and hear the Torah reading on Shabbat and on holidays and more recently, though it’s not necessarily a halachic obligation, the IDF made it possible for religious soldiers to combine yeshiva study with their military service.

 

This is only a partial list, but even just these examples show that it is most certainly acknowledged by the IDF’s leadership that making it possible to be a soldier and keep Jewish law is far from catering to the whims of whiny 18 year olds. For an army whose purpose is to protect the Jewish State and the Jewish People, this is quite serious.

 

Let’s be intellectually honest

In Israel, we have a mandatory draft. We also have a plethora of draft-dodgers, and the draft-dodgers that you read about most frequently are not the secular Tel Avivians - they are “the religious” (I put this term in quotes because it should be noted that several groups of religious Jews form what is arguably the backbone of the IDF, such as the National Religious.)

 

We, myself included, criticize their refusal to protect their nation and deem it unfair as the rest of us put ourselves and our sons and daughters in danger. Their main argument for not completing their mandatory service is that the IDF is not a suitable environment for a religious Jew.

 

As previously mentioned, the IDF goes out of its way to make it so this is not the reality; we must continue to do so if there is any hope of integrating this ever-growing massive societal fringe into the IDF. There will always be those who refuse, but the numbers show that more and more are willing to serve. Some are even willing to be disowned by their families in order to do so. Is it so much of a concession to allow them the courtesy of walking out of a military musical performance?

 

Lapid says, “If a soldier who stands at attention during a Holocaust Commemoration Day or Memorial Day ceremony cannot think of anything else but the level of sexiness in a female singer’s voice, he should be released from the IDF in any case on mental grounds.”

 

I would say, “If a secular soldier can’t bear to listen to a rabbi talk about his/her roots for an hour, he has a serious issue.” Both of these statements are based on our own personal desires and emotions. Let’s leave our desires and emotions out of the discussion. Let’s be intellectually honest about the difference between a perceived moral obligation and a boring, irrelevant lecture.

 

 

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