Try to say something today against Israel’s hottest trend: Drafting haredim into the IDF. If you dare voice the slightest doubt as to this struggle’s importance, righteousness and urgency, you will immediately be labeled as one who betrays the new chance to make Israeli society healthy, equal, moral and right. Let’s all charge forward.
Make no mistake about it: I too think that it’s right and appropriate and just to seek the enlistment of the haredim into the Israel Defense Force. A moment before the messiah comes and the wolf dwells with the sheep, we should certainly realize the vision of enlistment for all and erase the distortion of divine draft dodging. As a utopian aim, this is an appropriate matter. Yet before this utopia materializes, we have a few more unresolved issues here.
The draft protest is not the first in line. The social protest that emerged last summer featured endless flaws and mistakes, and was characterized by confusion on the one hand and by unrealistic demands on the other hand – yet it brought a refreshing, historic message and a new direction: It placed the civilian agenda as a top priority. It presented the desire to live here relatively well and to make a dignified living as a holy aim, in a state that 64 years after inception still insists on sanctifying security and the defense budget before anything else.
The protest of the summer of 2011, with all its flaws and errors, was a civilian protest that spoke of the right to live. The enlistment protest takes us back to the defense ethos and to the desire to see the yeshiva boys of Bnei Brak raiding enemy outposts alongside the youngsters of Ramat Gan.
Had this protest focused on the secular desire, which is as just as it gets, to put an end to funding the haredi parasite, it would have been more appropriate and vital in my view. Had it urged my haredi friend to join the job market rather than live at my expense, I would have joined the protest more easily. Yet the focus on the desire to see haredi platoons appears to me as something between cheap populism and focusing on what isn’t the most important.
Manpower shortage myth
The anti-haredi protest is more convenient. It’s more pleasant than the one that speaks out against the tycoons and the robbery. It is more convenient for Student Union Chairman Shmuli, it’s very convenient for Mofaz and for Lapid and even brings hope for more votes, and it’s convenient for the media, whose revenues were hurt by the previous protest.
Any attempt to deviate from the consensus that views haredi enlistment as everything will spoil the party. Even the statement that the time has come to separate religion and state and completely end the funding of yeshivot will pose a problem for leaders of the struggle, such as Lapid.
A few years ago I had a fascinating conversation with a senior office. He was the IDF deputy chief of staff at the time and later became the army chief. He dismissed the myth that the army faces a shortage of soldiers. He said that the time has come for a professional army. That the time has come to put away the irrelevant longing for a “popular army.” He won’t dare say this openly today. The IDF was and remains the unquestioned consensus. And therefore it’s so proper to raise a hue and cry against the draft dodging haredim and urge the whole nation to head to the square.
These people are fed up with politics and with the current situation, and they seek a cause to pursue. Somebody sold them the wrong cause. The convenient but wrong cause. Apparently we shall have to wait for the third protest, next summer.