This was posted on the JewishPress web site, then removed and the writer sacked. I’m reposting it here for posterity, with commentary to follow shortly.
They flooded downtown Manhattan with the anti-draft for Haredim message: everybody else is welcome to get themselves killed. What was even more astonishing was their honesty regarding the bankruptcy of their entire school of faith and study.
For the record, I believe the new Shaked-Lapid-Bennett draft law is by far worse than the one it came to replace, the Tal Law. Most importantly, because the Tal Law was getting results, without the idiotic, needless, divisive rancor generated by the new legislation. Killing the Tal Law, or, rather, issuing an edict that it had to be replaced by something that worked faster, was the parting poisonous gift of Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, protégé of that beacon of light unto the nations, Chief Justice Aharon (evil genius) Barak.
Since then we’ve seen one demonstration of a few hundred thousand Haredim against the new law in Jerusalem (but not a single day’s work was lost!), and yesterday, in downtown Manhattan, another 50 thousand Haredim marched to condemn the evil decree.
I went on the vosizneias.com website to check out the rally, because I expected them to bring the authentic stuff. I wasn’t disappointed, even though they just lifted the AP story without attribution: “We’re all united against military service for religious men in Israel because it doesn’t allow for religious learning,” said Peggy Blier, an interior designer from Brooklyn. “The Israeli government is looking to destroy religious society and make the country into a secular melting pot.”
Every single point made by Peggy Blier is a blatant lie. Of course the law allows for religious learning, it merely suggests that at some point—way past the age non-Haredim serve, and for half the time that normal Israelis give freely of their lives—”religious Jews in Israel” should participate in caring for the security of their country, or, if that’s too much, serve the equivalent time in vital organizations inside their own communities for their own neighbors. That, according to Peggy Blier, is a conspiracy on the part of the Israeli government to destroy religious society.
Shmuel Gruis, 18, a rabbinical student from Phoenix studying at a Long Island yeshiva, said, “These kids, a lot of them don’t know how to hold a gun. They don’t know what physical warfare is.” Are you kidding me? Have you ever been to a Shabbes demonstration? Those kids can throw a rock at police like born Palestinians. “Their whole world and their whole lifestyle is peace and love and in doing mitzvahs,” he said. OK, who can argue with that description of Haredi behavior? I’m sure non-Haredi women walking the streets of Beit Shemesh or boarding the bus in B’nei B’rak would attest to that pure goodness.
Some of the Hebrew prayers were led by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, a spiritual head of the Satmars living in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. If the IDF only enlisted the Satmar folks who ever participated in the clashes with the Satmar followers of the other spiritual head of Satmar, they could forge a most brutal and violent commando unit that would put to shame even the late Lee Marvin’s Dirty Dozen (and those included Telly Savalas and Trini Lopez).
Next Verena Dobnik, the AP reporter giving news content for free to Vosizneias, interviewed Yitz Farkas, a member of the Brooklyn-based True Torah Jews organization (step aside, all you False Torah Jews), who informed her that “The problem is, anyone who goes into the Israeli military becomes secular, and that would erase our whole tradition.” I always enjoy that one. See, you and I are pretty sure the Haredi costume is just that – a costume, underneath which hides a regular Joe, with desires, even lusts, like you and me. The only thing that keeps Joe Haredi from going apecrackers is not the Torah he has learned and integrated into his personality as a shield against evil—it’s the long bekkesh, the velvet yarmulke and the shterimel. Take those away, and Joe Haredi will become a beast overnight.
That, essentially, is the main argument being advanced by the deans of Haredi yeshivas: We have no trust in the Torah we’ve taught our students. we know better. This is why the only means we have of keeping them in line are extreme social pressure and intimidation. You take those away and Joe will spring the trap and become a normal man, availing himself freely of the gifts of a modern society. We can’t afford that. If we do, as Yitz Farkas put it so eloquently, “that would erase our whole tradition.”
The word Haredim is based on Isaiah 66:5: “Hear the word of God, you that tremble at His word.” The “you that tremble” part in Hebrew is “Haharedim el dvaro.” Meaning that there’s urgency on your part to fulfill His word impeccably. It’s not about fear but about devotion. But the post-Holocaust Haredi world is all about fear. Fear of new things. Fear of books. Fear of voices. And above all, fear that the education a young man receives during his 20 years in a Haredi yeshiva is worthless, because as soon as he encounters the outside world, those 20 years would vanish, melt away like Cholov Yisroel butter on a skillet. What an astonishing degree of honesty regarding the bankruptcy of an entire school of faith and study.
You know, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was once asked how come he’s not afraid that his Shluchim, the emissaries he was sending out into the farthest and darkest corners of the Earth wouldn’t be tainted by the unholy stuff that surely awaits them there. He responded by citing the laws of kashering-cleansing a vessel in preparation for Passover: k’bol’o ken polto—the way the vessel absorbed the substance so it would let go of it. Meaning that, had the emissary remained clean in body and spirit during his training years, he has nothing to fear “out there.”
I miss him very much. This year marks the 20th anniversary of his passing, and his absence today is felt more than ever before. He would have devoted a segment of a Shabbat farbrengen to the draft bill, and it would have set the whole thing straight: these guys are right on this and wrong on that and vice versa. now go and behave like dignified yidden and stop attacking one another.
What a strange, low-key ending to a piece that began as an exhilarated attack on Haredi IDF bashing. I guess I got tired of it. We’re not going to change the Haredi leadership’s position, we just have to rejoice in a merciful God who made them, like the rest of us, biodegradable.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba’Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist’s Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.