Monday, July 25, 2005

Yossi Beilin, Hareidim & Israeli Army Service - It's Not What you Think...

It's not everyday that I can say that I agree with something that Yossi Beilin, head of the ultra-left wing, ultra-secular Meretz - Yahad party, but today might be one of those days. yes, this is the same Yossi Beilin who tried to push the Geneva Accords down our throats which basically gives the "Palestinians" everything short of the keys to my apartment, and the same Yossi Beilin who seems to abhor anything which is outwardly Jewish.

However, it looks like he may have come up with a workable solution to solve a major source of conflict within Israeli society, namely, the ultra-Orthodox (Hareidim) being exempted from military service, so long as they are enrolled in full time learning (while the State of Israel and Joe Taxpayer foot the bill for their living expenses).

In an article entitled "Exemption for All" he writes:

"Rather, the true problem is that these people play no role in the work force (at least the legal work force, that is). According to some estimates, the yeshiva community bilks about 3 billion shekels per year from the economy.

When I was Minister of Economy and Planning, I asked Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to propose a law that would exempt any applicant from mandatory army service who applied on religious or moral grounds.

I said such a law would allow ultra-orthodox youngsters who don’t serve in the army to enter the work force, to study outside the yeshiva context, without the country needing to finance their studies or help so many yeshivas, since a large number of ultra-orthodox people become yeshiva students only to avoid army service."

What Beilin acknowledges is that many of the Hareidim who sit and learn all day, are doing so merely in order to exempt themselves from the army. In Beilin's proposed solution, as I understand it, those students who are truly qualified to sit and learn all day will continue to do so, but those that were only there for fear of being drafted will be able to learn a skill or a trade and enter the workforce (in a way that would still be consistent with their way of life (and still be able to make time for Torah study, each consistent with their abilities and dedication).

I once had a rabbi who felt that he had no issue with people receiving exemptions from military service so that they could study Torah, as both were needed for the defense of the State of Israel - but, there was to be a single condition that had to be fulfilled in order to receive this exemption... namely, that each student who was studying Torah in lieu of military service had to learn with the same intensity and devotion required of one who serves in the military - anything less, and they wouldn't be fulfilling the purpose of their exemption. Clearly, this would allow the top students to continue studying full time, at the expense of the State of Israel, while allowing others who were not on the same level to find other meaningful ways to contribute to society, while balancing their own needs for personal and spiritual growth.

Think about it... I still am.


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