It reached the point where former Mossad Chief Ephraim Halevy said that he fears haredi radicalization more than he fears Iran. When I hear the man uttering such nonsense, and realize that once upon a time he was entrusted with safeguarding our security, I don’t sleep at night retroactively.
I've been monitoring haredi society for many years now. I see much more moderation than radicalization over there. It's impossible to compare the haredim of 20 years ago to today's haredim. It is true that in recent years we have seen pockets of radicalization emerging there, such as the so-called Taliban women, but we can say two things about them: They are small, marginal and look inward to haredi society, and they are a manifestation of despair and haredi withdrawal in the face of the modernization and secularization flourishing around here.
Overall, the country has become much more secular, and the vast majority of haredim participate in all State institutions.
Another, much more blatant issue, is the latest controversy over female singing. What did we have there? Women sang at a military base, and several national-religious cadets, not even haredim, felt a need to walk out in line with a religious edict. Their faith pushed them out. The secular base commander dismissed them from the course. For him it's very simple: If they are not like him, they can't be there at all.
Army not for everyone
The entire religious-secular story can be found in this blatant tale of dismissal. The debate today is not whether women will be singing or not, as nobody asked them to stop. The debate today is over the secular demand that the religious too stay in the audience and listen to this singing. Zero tolerance to the faith of others. What's good for us must be good for them. And if this is how national-religious troops are treated in the army, how much tolerance can there be for non-Zionist haredim?
Perhaps this female singing affair marks the direction in the greatest and most painful dispute between seculars and haredim, on the issue of military service. The controversy over female singing points to a very simple fact: The haredim cannot serve in the IDF, because it's a very secular institute that cannot adapt itself to them.
A haredi who arrives at the army encounters his religious divergence from morning till night, ranging from the crude graffiti at washrooms to kashrut and modesty affairs. In order to enable a haredi to enlist for service, the army would have to accommodate him in so many ways that it's unclear whether the military can do this without renouncing its own principles. And when haredim already go ahead and serve in the IDF, what do they do there? Usually they serve as kashrut inspectors. Was this worth all the trouble?
A reader may say: Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. That is, we should not renounce an important principle like universal IDF enlistment only because of the difficulties inherent in integrating the haredim. Yet there are several responses here.
Firstly, in practice this has been the situation for many years now. Secondly, if we wish to change the situation that prevails in practice and enlist all haredim, we shall have to use guns in order to force enlistment on the most radical elements in the haredi public, something which nobody wants to do. Thirdly, and in my view most importantly, after 63 years the time may have come for us to realize that not everybody can join the IDF.
Perhaps it is precisely through the haredi divergence that we shall accept the idea that some groups within society and some individuals cannot withstand army enlistment. Perhaps we shall accept the idea that the admission ticket to Israeli society is not acquired only through military enlistment, and that the time has come to stop persecuting those who did not serve in the IDF and enable people to contribute to Israeli society in other ways.