An Example of Distortion
Take for example, the words of one of the Rosh Yeshiva’s, who is active in the Hesder Yeshiva Association, which appears on the web-site of one of the Hesder yeshiva’s. In order to strengthen his position, he presented our opinion in an extreme way, as wanting to “sharpen disputes and reach confrontation,” and therefore believing that “it is the duty of a religious soldier to strive for confrontation with army officers in any issue concerning the fulfillment of mitzvoth, even if such conflict is unnecessary.”
“Those who hold such opinions occasionally relate to the army as being an enemy, which must be dealt with as such. The following examples will prove this: A Jew who was arrested for illegally demonstrating and sat in jail for 15 days, received a ‘heter’ (halachic permission), according to this approach, to evade reserve duty for 15 days – one day for everyday he sat in jail. A soldier in uniform who arrived at a wedding was asked to put on civilian clothes, because it is a disgrace to come to a wedding in an I.D.F. uniform – for the I.D.F., which performed despicable acts, is itself despicable…”
He concludes: “Concerning these issues, I wonder: What percentage of everything that the I.D.F. does is evil? What would we do without the I.D.F.? Who defends this country, if not the I.D.F.? Of course, all this, in the merit of ‘seeyata d’shmaya’ (help from Heaven).”
In a good case scenario, I would say that the things written about us are extreme; in a bad case, I would say they are wrong. I will present to you the original story concerning the taking-off of the I.D.F. uniform at the wedding – judge for yourself.
The Story of the Uniform
In my column “Revivim”, 19th of Tevet, 5766 (a few months after the expulsion from Gush Katif and Northern Shomron), I wrote:
“Last week we celebrated the wedding of our oldest son. Friends of his who he served with in the army were invited to the wedding, along with tens of students from the Yeshiva who are presently serving in the army – amongst them, young officers. I wanted them to come in uniform so we could dance together, to show that in spite of all the difficulties, we are united for the sake of the nation and the land. Indeed, the soldiers arrived; however, they all had taken off their uniforms. Not one of them remained in an I.D.F. uniform. In the past, yeshiva students who came to weddings from the army were proud to wear, and dance, in their uniforms. Had I known they were going to take them off, I would have told them beforehand to remain in their uniforms, for after all, it is a mitzvah to serve in the army – whose main task is to defend the nation and the land. However, after all we have been through – the students are embarrassed by their uniforms. Sometime after the wedding, I asked other soldiers if they also are quick to remove their uniforms when they leave their bases to go home. The answer was ‘yes’. No one speaks about it, but in fact, they take-off their uniforms at the first opportunity. The guilty are those contemptible politicians sitting in the government, who have turned the I.D.F. uniform into a disgrace.”
Criticize My Literary Style
One can see that I did not try to glamorize things. I quoted them completely – till the last scathing sentence which crowned those responsible for the destruction of the settlements as “contemptible” – a sentence which probably outraged some bleeding-hearts. But back then, what description was more appropriate for those who broke their promises to their voters, destroyed settlements, and shamefully abandoned the evacuees?
Nevertheless, one could argue that, even then, it wasn’t right to call them ‘contemptible’, but rather ‘wrongdoers,’ ‘mistaken,’ ‘tinok shenishba’ (a captured infant), or perhaps ‘the donkeys of Mashiach who have gone astray’. However, one must admit that the story about the uniforms was described in a completely distorted way, till the only thing left to say about it is that it is precisely correct – only the exact opposite…
By the way, as time goes by, it is becoming clearer that not only in relation to the expulsion did the members of the government act contemptibly, but also in all their numerous cases of corruption. The ‘honorable’ Minister, Ehud Barak, is also cut-out of the same material – only he hasn’t been caught yet…
For those who have already forgotten those sad days when the army occupied itself with the expulsion of Jews and the destruction of settlements, here is a story for example: During those times, an officer, the son of a well-known and respected personality in the religious community, arrived home from the army. Out of utter frustration, he took off his uniform, trampled on them, and cried. He felt he could no longer serve and wanted to desert the army. His father, who empathized with his son’s pain, convinced him to finish his duty.
On Army Service and Evading Reserve Duty
The same Rabbi also indicated an additional example of our position which “occasionally views the army as an enemy”: “A Jew who was arrested for illegally demonstrating and sat in jail for 15 days, received a ‘heter’, according to this approach, to evade reserve duty for 15 days – one day for every day he sat in jail.”
First of all, who says that he demonstrated illegally? Demonstrating is a foundation of democracy and civilian rights. At the very most, he demonstrated in opposition to the police and army, who, together with government in those days, breached all accepted procedures. This is similar to writing about Martin Luther King that his actions were illegal, and woe to those who supported him. In any case, a jail sentence of 15 days for participating in an illegal demonstration is completely unacceptable; only due to the atmosphere of judicial maltreatment in those days could such a thing happen.
Now for a description of what I said (which appear in my book “Revivim: Nation, Land, Army,” pg.330-336). During those times, a lot of people asked me, if, after the army’s disgusting actions of expelling Jews, was it proper to enlist in the army or do reserve duty. My basic answer was that it is a great mitzvah to serve in the army, to defend the nation and the land. However, someone who was greatly offended by his officer in the reserves, who expressed willingness to expel him and his children to the street, is entitled not to report to reserve duty until he once again feels comradeship. And if the army conditions one’s enlistment to a combat unit on his expressing regret for participating in demonstrations, he shouldn’t apologize, but rather serve in a rear unit.
Here is the original text (“Revivim”, 3 Tishrei, 5766): “Question: As a result of the demonstrations against the retreat and expulsion, I was jailed for 15 days. I missed work and felt humiliated. I am angry at the government and the police, and don’t want to do reserve duty. What should I do?
Answer: Just as there is a mitzvah to defend the nation and the land by serving in the army, so too, there is a mitzvah to demonstrate for the sake of the nation and land. If you already sat in jail for 15 days, you can consider it as 15 days of reserve duty…”
Now, my dear readers, you are entitled to judge: Did I write my words as one who sees the army as an enemy, or through balanced judgment, stemming from a desire to repair.