The Coalition Plan For Chareidim


idf-chareidi-koselBy Yitzchok Adlerstein

The coalition government government’s plan for drafting charedim should give rise to some sighs of relief, and some guarded optimism. That is not likely to happen, because it is just not the way charedim in Israel react (at least publicly), and because there are definite grounds for concern.

It could have been much worse. Hence, the sigh of relief. Non-charedi Israels were determined to address the financial burden they believe is placed upon them by a huge community that is underemployed and expanding. Something was going to happen. As one major Torah figure said (privately, of course), “After decades of treating them like garbage, we should be surprised when they want to treat us the same way?” Many feared that the plan would be draconian and counterproductive. If it went too far, it would undo all the quiet progress that has already been made providing alternatives for those who do not find it within them to spend their time in productive, full-time learning and want to enter the work-force, or serve in Tzahal. While the public rhetoric in the community strenuously opposes both, literally thousands are voting with their feet. Programs to provide academic and vocational skills to charedi men and women are booming. The charedi contingent in the army has established itself, although the government’s performance in supporting it has been lackluster. It looked like economics was already forcing change, at a rate that was likely to accelerate. If the government would go too far, it would be taken as a gezeras shmad (which is in fact what one major Israeli Rosh Yeshiva called any plan to draft any number of students) and force all charedim to resist.

This did not happen. Like the plan or not, it does show some serious thought and consideration.

Nothing much happens for four years. Immediately, there are only dark clouds on the horizon for charedim – and many privately see it as the dawning of a brighter day. This minimizes the result of immediate (and even violent) pushback.

An exception, apparently, is that even immediately, anyone over the age of 22 is free to enter the workforce, even if he did not do any army service. We can anticipate that many will take advantage of this offer, and begin the slow process of having Israeli charedim accept what many, if not enough of us, do in the States: that there is room for both learners and earners.

The plan allows future 18 yr old potential inductees some choices. Today, roughly 7000 of those who turn 18 apply for exemptions, and are given them routinely. Starting four years from now, only 1800 top learners will be exempted – but given higher stipends than they are now given. They must stay in full-time learning until age 26, or incur penalties.

Everyone else will have three options. They can join the army for two years (the term of service is being cut down to that from the present three), at higher pay than is now offered. They can opt for serious national service for the same length of time, in the police, fire, or Zaka services – all for lesser pay. They can do none of the above, and continue to learn, but incur financial penalties. So will yeshivos that keep a large percentage of non-servers on their rolls. The Nachal Charedi program will be expanded over the next years in anticipation of the four year mark to make room for two more charedi battalions, including designated training facilities.

In other words, the images we were envisioning of massive arrests won’t happen. Shirking the government demand for sharing the burden of service will not be criminalized. There will be positive inducements to serve, and negative monetary ones for failing to serve. Rather than treat learning with complete contempt (as many here must be true of a secular government), the government will show its regard for traditional Torah learning by rewarding the top 25% of learners, and support them at State expense. This was not the reaction of the Tommy Lapids and his ilk. For whatever reason, the younger Lapid has displayed more diplomacy – and more wisdom.

It could have been much worse. The community will rail against these changes. (One headline read, “Lavan bikeish laakor es hakol! Lavan = Lapid, Bennet, Netanyahu.) Having gotten used to a certain life style for almost seven decades, this should be expected. It will have four years to either undo the “gezerah” if and when the present coalition falls apart, or learn to live with it. That could mean finally conceding (as so many do privately) that many are not cut out for full-time learning. This would bring relief to much of the grinding poverty in the community, and alleviate some of the walking out of frum life by kids going off the derech because they are boxed in by one-size fits all chinuch. Alternatively, the community could decide to swallow the bitter pill and still encourage universal learning, but have to take on the increased costs of paying the fines, probably by more fund-raising trips to America. (Jimmy the Greek’s odds on the latter successfully occurring in today’s economy are not so favorable. Perhaps HKBH Himself will weigh on by turning the economy around, and allowing that possibility.)

The school issue is more ticklish from the standpoint of the extremely anti-secular community in Israel. The government is demanding two and a half hours a day of core curriculum instruction. Schools which do not provide it will now be denied funds. Again, this becomes a funding crisis rather than grounds for a holy war against the nouveau-Czarist agents set to padlock the doors of the chadorim.

Again, it could have been handled more stupidly.

Many in the States (depending on where they daven) will be hard-pressed to find these measures as objectionable as people in Israel. Many undoubtedly will join the mourning, but others will daven that these measures will be successful in solving the growing problem of poverty and the burden that the charedi community is perceived to place on unwilling Israelis. Many will look expectantly to the building of a society in which the Torah community is seen as having the best and most attractive approach to living a meaningful life, attentive to all normal human needs.

Even the most optimistic should see that significant dangers lurk ahead. Those who think the new program completely understandable should still admit the possibility that future measures might be imposed that push ever more forcefully to make Torah authority and the Torah lifestyle take a back seat relative to the demands of the State. While we should not be overly rejectionist, we cannot afford to be naïve either.

We all need much siyata deShamaya in charting our reactions in the next weeks and the course in the upcoming four years.


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  1. Regarding the draft any wise person would avoid the army look at all the soldiers coming back from Afghanistan who are seriously injured. As far as the core curriculum they can use the internet school web sites.

  2. Ok, ok, Mr Alderstein.

    Lets see now. Will Nachal Chareidi be expanded? No!

    So they would like the chareidim to join the army on their terms? And you’re saying it’s not so bad? Oh, the “religious Zionists” have somewhere between a 20- 55% frie rate (meaning, they drop Shabbos, Kashrus and all other Mitzvos) in the army – and entering that army is good? Not so, Mr Alderstein.

    And not allowing Chareidim to work, is good? Is not so bad?? Actually, most American religious Jews will be sending their money to help our brethren in the Holy Land, while you’ll wax poetic of silly we are.

    Nebach on you!

  3. #1 and what is your suggestion for security at mekomos hakedoshim and throughout the country if we are to avoid the army?

  4. such words of wisdom – not usually seen on this website…

    Harav Adlerstein hits the nail squarely on the head.
    shkoyach matzav for publishing…

  5. ALL the gedolim have said that the coalition’s plans are terrible for Yiddishkeit. Views of others which disagree with that assesment, I think do not belong on a Torah site.

  6. Finally, a break from the hysteria! All those who compare the current Israeli government to Pharaoh and the Cantonists have no sense of the suffering that the early generations of our people have gone through. This voice of reason should be posted for all the frum world to see. This should be translated into Hebrew to open the eyes of the Israeli Chareidi world, too.

  7. Are you kidding me? On a officially frum Torah website, Mr. Adlerstein is going against every single Chareidi Gadol of our time whether in Eretz Yisroel or America. Many have called it a gzeiras hashmad. Shame on you.

  8. Paroh in Mitzrayim also started slowly then little by little things got worse for the jews. if the gedolim are saying this is bad for the bnei torah then their insight is much more on the ball than mr. adelstein’s.
    by the reaction of the gedolim these ideas are BAD FOR THE JEWS. Mr. adelstein in mitzrayim would have said that paroh’s idea’s in the beginning weren’t so bad also…

  9. The only fair and equatable solution is to abolish the draft. There is no need for it and it is a waste of money and people.

    Also, as much as the Hareidi community needs to reform and adapt itself to new realities, how much more so does the Secular community. It is long over due for it to abandon its communist roots and embrace the Jewish values of individual responsibility and the sanctity of of private property.

    It should be remembered that the ruling elite does not object to Shabbos or Kasharut or any other aspect of Torah due to some sort of theological problems. They object and fight against it all because they want a docile and controllable proletariat to populate their communist utopia. Torah interferes with this. That is why there is still a draft twenty-five years after the professional military recommended it be abolished and the IDF made totally voluntary. That is why, tonight, after the official Army Seder, there will be a (optional) move shown (topic unknown).

    So do not allow people to deceive you with this plan of that plan. Until the rulers of Israel are no longer communists, there will always be a problem.

    Aryeh Zelasko
    Beit Shemesh

  10. Thrilled, I am not thrilled at all. I do agree with the author it could have been even worse, that’s the case also with the czar, Paraoh, and everything else.

  11. In the end, the secular government will not win out. They cannot force the conscription. The great Rabbis of yesterday and today know full well the the only intention the army (govt) has is to water down the observance of the youth. The IDF itself admitted they do not want them, but this whole balagan is because they are watering down the Jewishness in the State today in every area. The Rabbanut is even being taken over by what they call state loyalists, who put the ‘state’ before Hashem. Do they really think they can win that way? All part of chevlei Moshiach.

  12. To all those who bash (1,2&9), the new rules will not require anyone to go to the army, there is an option to do national service (Zaka, firemen hazlolah and the like). And after the 2 years of service in Zaka or Hatzolah one can go back to learning full time or if they do choose, can go out and get a job. Not so bad if you ask me.