Sunday, July 15, 2018

Close the Window, I Feel a Draft Coming In!

Let me open this post with an announcement.

It looks like I will have a second son joining the IDF.

A quick rundown. I am blessed with six sons (and even more daughters). The oldest is the one I called Yaakov. He is more of a leather yarmulke type. He joined Nahal Chareidi in 2010. I wrote about it then. He did his three years and was discharged about five years ago. He has even done a stint in miluim. After the army, he went to Bar Ilan U and got an M.A. in financial mathematics. Currently, he works in the financial office of a large law firm in Ramat Gan. He is a very, very eligible bachelor.

Next is the one I called Yossi who was the star in many of my Shidduch posts. He went through the Israeli Yeshiva system and obtained an official p’tur. Then he went to Lakewood, found a bride and came back. He is currently learning in Kollel in EY and, I hope, living happily ever after.

Next up is one I will call Yitzi. He was only three when we came, but still, like his older brothers, he didn’t really take to the Israeli Yeshiva social system. He also managed a p’tur from the army and then promptly bugged off to the US and is currently learning in Rhode Island with some college on the side.

I will skip to my two younger sons, both Israeli born who blend in nicely with the “system”. They are both in Yeshiva Ketana (high school) and don’t seem to be candidates for army service in the long term.

And this brings us back to son number 4 – Eli. Eli is my first son born in Eretz Yisrael. Actually, he is my only child born in Yerushalayim. Everyone after him was born in Bnei Brak. Like his father, Eli is an independent thinker, left-handed, and very opinionated. In line, he is an idealist. Though his ideals are much more nationalistic than mine. He is not pro-Medinat Yisrael but is he very pro-Eretz Yisrael.

Eli is quite a character. Even though he never attended the Zilberman school system, he fully adopted their Vilna Gaon shitos. He doesn’t shave, he wears techeiles, tries to wear tefillin all day, and stops bentching after “al yechasreinu”. So he is part Zilberman with a touch of “hilltop” and 100% activist. He is a Lehava activist and Temple Mount activist and a Kahanist. He learns in Yeshiva Raayon Hayehudi which is the yeshiva established by Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D. He is pre-messianic which means he believes we should first build the Beis HaMikdash and reinstitute the avoda and [only] then Moshiach will come.

This means clearing out the Yishmaeli interlopers and he is all for it. He doesn’t believe in firing warning shots. He would just love to get his hands on an M-16 and so, he decided to sign up.

For those who don’t know, the chareidi presence in the army is expanding. Until now, there was only Netzach Yehuda (Nahal Chareidi) which is an infantry battalion in the Kfir brigade. They are now starting a Chareidi Tzanchanim (paratrooper) battalion and this is what he tried signing up for.

Unfortunately, he is a bit scrawny, very nearsighted, and, as I said, avidly idealistic so he wasn’t really able to get past the few physicals and the army shrink. So he is settling for Plan B which is to go into Rabbanut Tzvaii in the Shachar battalion.

What comes out of all this is that out of the offspring of yours truly, [Anglo] Chareidi-in-Chief, I might wind up with 2 out of 6 (equals 1 out of 3) boys doing IDF army service. And I am certainly not the only chareidi baal-haboss who is experiencing this phenomenon. All this without any crazy mandatory laws.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Here in our neck of the woods, we are sitting with baited breath trying to get a handle on what is being called the new improved Hareidi Draft Law. It’s a bit like Obamacare (per Nancy Pelosi) – we won’t really know what’s in it until after we pass it. It is as mysterious as it is illogical. But, this is Israel. Everything works this way.

So for the record, I am getting all my information from these few articles in Haaretz which is not exactly the oracle of truth (HERE and HERE and HERE) but they (plus a few others from Arutz 7 and JPost) are the first ones that show up in my Google. 

This bill is a very strange type of compromise. On the one hand, it calls for financial sanctions against the Yeshiva world if certain quotas are not met. By itself, the chareidi parties would never accept such a provision and would bring down the government instead of supporting it. So, to take out these teeth, the bill gives a time schedule as if to say that there won’t be any sanctions for the first two years anyway. After that, there may be financial sanctions but it won’t affect the bill. Only if there are three consecutive years where the quotas fall short, then the bill will be voided and all Yeshiva guys will get drafted.

But, wait! If the bill is voided, the Knesset gets another 12 months to make a new bill before there is any mandatory draft. Mishpacha magazine adds that the Defense minister can issue automatic deferments for even another two years.

It seems that some of the chareidi parties (Shas and Degel HaTorah) are actually ready to support this bill because, at the extreme end, it totally kicks the can down the road for another six years (or more). There won’t be any sanctions for the first two years and for the next three, well, it’s only money.

Let me add, that it will not be easy for the government to apply any sanctions to any Yeshivos. The money the Yeshivos receive is so miniscule that there is almost no way to give less. Sure the government money helps and contributes to the budget, but none of the Yeshivas can and do subsist on it exclusively. Supposedly, Ponovizh has been the showcase Yeshiva for government assistance so they hang up a blue and white flag on Yom HaAtzmaut, but how much do you think Belz and Gur and Vizhnitz rely on government money? Who are you kidding?

And that’s where the numbers of “chareidim” really are!

After absorbing all this, I am puzzled by quite a few questions. First about the quota numbers themselves.

According to the Haaretz article, the numbers call for a starting quota of 3,996 “Yeshiva” guys in 2018 (bear in mind that it is already mid-July) and advance to 6,844 by the end of 2027. This would be a cumulative increase of about 71% over ten years.

The question is: 71%? Where is the army going when it comes to manpower? Does the army really want to grow? Does it need to grow? Does it intend to be 71% bigger in ten years?

Everybody knows that the Israeli army is totally swamped. As long as nothing really drastic happens, they have way more soldiers than they need and, it is argued, than they can afford. Currently, the system brings in enough inductees from all sectors that they are not lacking. They barely call anybody for mandatory miluim anymore.  If, chas v’shalom, some terrible catastrophe would call for the strength of the entire force, there are enough potential reservists between the ages of 22-36 to quadruple the standing force in a flash. This fact will hold year after year. And if even that won’t be enough, it obviously means that HKBH is not standing in our corner so we are anyway doomed no matter how many soldiers we produce.

So the manpower issue is a total joke and everybody knows it. In truth, as the general Israeli population continues to grow, kein yirbu, it becomes evident that the country is facing a more serious dilemma: how to deal with a potential soldier pool that is way bigger than we need?

And this is no joke. Currently, the Israeli government is dealing with it by quietly giving indiscriminate exemptions to people who do not meet the high end of their profile standards - especially if they want to be exempted. Not just to chareidim.

Perhaps, we can alleviate the army surplus problem by sending all the girls home. This might help to minimize what is now the biggest cause of death in the Israeli army – abortion. But, of course, then all the girls would get a head start in law school, pharmacy school,  and optician school while the boys in green are stuck playing shesh-besh by their Humvees and they will corner the job market (this is already happening).

Yep, Israel has its own version of the “shidduch crisis”.

I gather, many readers are probably saying that the purpose of this quota increase is not because the army wants to grow, but they want the proportion of the soldiers coming from the chareidi sector to be bigger than it is. Such a stance is likely to open up another few Pandora’s boxes.

Firstly, the concept of singling out one sector of the population to produce a “quota” is very undemocratic in today’s liberal world. It sort of goes against the principles of the left wing that is pushing for this quota to start with. Quotas for one are quotas for all!

I suppose the counter-argument might be that we would intrinsically apply quotas to any sector but it’s a foregone conclusion that any other “sector” already meets its phantom quota so there is no point in applying one. This may be true, but even so, the idea of even designating a “sector” is disturbing. Are Ethiopians a “sector”? Are Russians a “sector”? Are olim a “sector”? Are the handicapped a “sector”? Ashkenazim? Sephardim? Kurdim? Geirim?

Doesn’t secular pluralistic ideology state that all citizens are a part of one heterogeneous mixture?

The second Pandora’s box is that if we are dealing with a higher proportion of chareidim in an army of a basically static size, their influence and power will grow along with it. Is this really what the left wing army wants? The demands and “special needs” of the chareidim that are already in the army have always been a thorn in the side of the IDF. Real chareidim (not the renegades that run to the army to escape) are not too quick to follow orders that conflict with chareidi ideals. Chareidim will not take part in evacuations of Jewish settlements. They don’t believe in standing like statues while Arabs harass them and endanger them. And how many beard controversies and Torah shiur controversies does the army want?

Or does the army really want to turn black?

For the third Pandora’s box, we need to examine another part of the law as reported in the papers. Let us see what Haaretz writes:

The latest attempt, spearheaded by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which passed its first reading vote in the Knesset on Monday night, aims to hit the ultra-Orthodox community where it hurts – the pocketbook.

According to the current version of the proposed law, yeshivas will be required to meet a quota of students who move from their studies into the military or do some alternative form of national service.

And in another article:

Financial penalties should be imposed on ultra-Orthodox yeshivas whose students fail to meet quotas for military or national civil service, a committee charged with preparing a new conscription bill recommended Monday.

But, wait! Look at this headline and lead from Haaretz July 2:

Explained: The Controversial Law That Would Press Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Community Into Military Service

The defense minister is spearheading legislation to get nearly 7,000 Haredim into the army by 2027. But neither the ultra-Orthodox nor left-wing politicians are happy with the proposed bill…

This is very confusing. Who is this quota calling on – ultra-orthodox Jews from the “community” or the students from any given ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva? If they want a quota of ultra-orthodox Jews, what does this have to do with the Yeshivos? How would one apply sanctions to the general charieidi sector?

So let’s first take the more logical route – this is not really a quota on the chareidi sector in general. It’s meant to be a quota on the Yeshivos. What does this mean? If they get their quota of “Yeshiva guys” they will be satisfied and if they don’t, they will sanction the Yeshivos? If it’s the collective Yeshiva system, which Yeshivos do you punish? Which yeshiva is “guilty”? All of them? Collective punishment?

And if its’ individual Yeshivos, does this mean that every Yeshiva will be given a quota of active students currently enrolled that are supposed to be de-studentized and “turned over” to the army?

Like, Ponovezh will have to go over their current student list and fork over 50 guys? Will they be sohnim or mechablim (or a separate quota of each)? And Mir and Chevron and Wolfson and Rosen and Lomza and Meor HaTorah, etc, etc.?  And what about Yeshiva Grodno Ashdod (don’t make me laugh)? I can assure you this is never going to happen. Not before every major road artery between Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim is repeatedly plugged up to a standstill.

The problem is, if a boy goes into the army, he isn’t enrolled in a Yeshiva! So how is any boy a ward of any given Yeshiva? Which Yeshiva gets all the unaffiliated “wildcard” guys? In terms of increasing from 3,996 to 6,844, do you mean we already have 3996 Yeshiva boys in the army? Which Yeshivos are they from? Why can’t every Yeshiva point to let‘s say ten soldiers hanging around the chareidi battalions and say they came from us?

This looks a lot like the Cantonist decrees to me. Netanyahu is getting way too friendly with Vladimir Putin (or is it Avigdor Lieberman?).

After all this there are more questions. How is the government even going to punish the Yeshivos with sanctions? Give them less money? No money? If the Yeshivos will survive without the government money, what effect will this have?

And if they can’t survive, it means the Knesset is closing them down. I can’t imagine any government willing to take on such as task nor surviving to tell about it. Incidentally, I predict that just as the proportion of the chareidim in the army increases, the proportion of the chareidim in the Knesset will also increase. As the right wing gets more and more established in the Knesset, it is a sure thing that such a debacle as closing down Yeshivos will never pass the plenum.

Sof davar, there is just no chance that these sanctions will ever be applied; especially on a per-Yeshiva basis. The left-wingers and Avigdor Lieberman are never ever going to get their “Yeshiva guys”.  And no Yeshivos are going to get sanctioned.

So let’s go back to understanding this law at a more communal level and assume that they will just have to settle for calling for a quota of chareidim that are not Yeshiva guys.  And, sure enough, if we look at the headline of the last Haaretz item I quoted, the terminology seems to indicate this.This is not a per-Yeshiva quota, but a chareidi-sector quota.

And we are back to square one. With new Pandora’s boxes.

According to the press, “Yeshiva students” and “Ultra-Orthodox” are interchangeable. But this is not the way it is in real life. We already noted a problem of singling out a specific group from a “politically correct” perspective, but now we are faced with a much stickier problem: how do we identify what counts as a chareidi community and a chareidi?

Those who read my book probably know that a big section of it deals exclusively on how to define a chareidi so we know who counts and who doesn’t. Not everybody agreed to my definition. But there is one thing we can all agree on ­– there is more than one definition.

When it comes to demographics, if one does not have a monolithic definition on his subjects his numbers are totally useless. I expounded on this point both in my book (Chapter 9) and in a lengthy post eight years ago about how to define a chareidi for the purpose of statistics.

And,  after all is said and done, is such a thing really necessary? As I opened in this post, the IDF already got my Yaakov and it looks like they will be getting my Eli (I am not sure they really want him!). Are they “ultra-Orthodox” or not? Eli is even currently in a real honest to goodness Yeshiva (even though the founder was banned from the Knesset).

MK Yisrael Katz says the same thing. Right here in Arutz 7:

Minister Katz also stated that the intervention of the judicial system in the law was unnecessary. ​​"The Supreme Court erred when it intervened on this issue of enlistment," he said.

Katz also added an unusual figure that has received no media attention. "According to data presented by a committee in the Defense Ministry, the number of haredim who serve in the army is not far from the percentage of the general public who serve."

Of course, as I have written countless times, the validity of his statement boils down to what counts as a “chareidi”. Though, by my own definition, I believe he is right.

There is really no way out of this Pandora’s box. The Bagatz is spinning its wheels. They can give a hundred 12 month deadlines. There can never be a logical law. We have always defied logic, anyway.

Nobody really knows what this law is. According to Mishpacha magazine, there is currently a rift between Degel HaTorah and Agudas Yisroel. Degel HaTorah is looking at this as a quota for the ultra-Orthodox community, so they can live with it. Agudas Yisroel is looking at it as a quota of Yeshiva boys, so they cannot live with it.

Whether or not this bill passes, nothing is really going to change. It’s all smoke and mirrors. There is only one thing it can accomplish. If you ask Moshe Gafni, it may just save Netanyahu’s coalition.

But if you ask Yaakov Litzman, it may not.


Anonymous said...

He doesnt were תכלת....he wears blue strings

Yechezkel Hirshman said...

Depends who you ask. Those who actually wear techeiles hold that it is techeiles. Those who don't, hold they are blue strings. (I don't wear them, but I actually do think that the trunculus murex extract is techeiles.)

Anonymous said...

Rav asher weiss says its 0% chance murex is techeles

Yechezkel Hirshman said...

He did say he does not think it is the genuine techeles but he was not so extreme to say there is a 0% chance. He is much too cautious to say such a thing. Do you wear a wristwatch, by the way?

Anonymous said...

Wristwatch?? Then rav y reisman said 0%...

Yechezkel Hirshman said...

You are correct that R. Y. Reisman did say 0%. I listened to his 45 minute talk and was strongly unimpressed. I am considering a series of posts on why I think so.

The reference to a wristwatch was a subliminal message to how we need to evaluate the opinions of gedolim who are far from unanimous. Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, who unequivocally forbids any type of wristwatch. You will not find [m]any others who concur with his psak. The message is that one cannot impress on somebody else an opinion of a gadol on an issue for which he does not have the support of his peers. If you believe otherwise, then you have no business wearing a wristwatch (assuming that you do).