Sharing the burden

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By: Yuval Nemirovsky

One of the main topics of discussion nowadays in Israel and in the Jewish communities around the word is the problem of “Sharing the Burden”.

This is how is called: “Sharing the burden”: the problem of having hundreds of thousands ultra-orthodox people getting benefits from the Israeli government without being committed or doing the same duties than the more secular or modern orthodox Israeli citizens are doing.

The main issue of having so many “yeshiva students” affects mainly the Israeli economy, the Israeli culture, the Israeli internal and external security and it’s search for equal rights. Yes it could sound too extreme, but the issue with the ultra orthodox people can destroy the idea of the state of Israel

The issue began with an “innocent” mistake of our first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.  After the declaration of independence, Ben-Gurion thought that because of the delicate situation the young state of Israel was living, it was the best for the political establishment to make an agreement with the small number of ultraorthodox living then in Israel. He made a pact where, Yeshiva students can become experts of Torah, not being mandatory for them to join the army. We have to understand that many ultra orthodox think that this is the only way someone can help the Jewish people. Even more, some ultra orthodox don’t believe in the legitimacy of a “secular” Jewish state.  They believe that the only sovereignty Jewish people can obtain is after the arrival of the messiah.

Ben-Gurion’s way of thinking was a mistake, not because he wanted to make a deal with them, he was mistaken because he though that in a near future the Hareidi  (ultraorthodox) culture would disappear.

He was the representative of the socialist democratic Israel and he truly desired to have a state where people were identified with the values of the “chalutzim” (pioneers), not having many options for “different” Jews either.

The truth is that, although is too hard to say, it is difficult to set the limit of being pluralistic when the “other” is not pluralistic at all!! Can the secular and progressive society in Israel allow the ultra-orthodox monopoly to have that strong influence in the Jewish State?

Many Israelis don’t think that the more liberal society in Israel is acting towards a change. A change that says: “we are all on the same boat”, and if we are not going to benefit all from the same things at least we are all going to work hard to try to have benefits.

Changes are trying to be made. Nevertheless, it is amazing how the sate of Israel despite many attempts to be free, is still, a hostage of the ultra orthodox culture. 

Nowadays, no yeshiva student, or at least someone registered as a student (because many of them are not students actually), is required to join the IDF.

Ultra-orthodox boys don’t serve in the army and most of them do not work at all. The government pays them from the social welfare budget so they can study in peace.

 Ultra-orthodox people use the excuse of their culture to create an argument against joining the army. The argument is based on how they are going to loose their culture if they go to the army. They have a valid point; do we want to continue being influenced by their culture in the state of all the Jews?

 Well, we, the “other” Jews are also loosing our culture. The army is not something we want to do for fun; it is something we MUST do. We have to do it because of many reasons, mainly security reasons. So I ask you, are we, secular, progressive, conservative modern orthodox Jews less spiritual? I don’t think so. I think the main discussion is not about serving in the army. The main discussion is about recognizing Judaism as a living culture, people, religion that doesn’t need to be saved by the ultra-orthodox.

Instead of sharing the burden, this issue should be about sharing the culture.

Serving in the army is hard to everyone. The main reason of my service in the army was behind this question: “If I don’t do it, then who is going to????”

 I remember myself in Israel, after making Alyah: My idea was to study at Hebrew University and have a normal life there like any other Jew. But after some months in the country I got a letter from the IDF explaining me that it is my duty to join the army. As I was an oleh (new immigrant) I had the opportunity to decide if I wanted to continue my studies at the University and then join the army. Or join the army as soon as possible to catch up with 18 years old that were already in service.

This is an opportunity that most of Israelis do not have.  I had some months to think about this decision and you can imagine that it was not an easy decision to make.

 My idea of Israel is the idea of “kulanu arevim ze laze”. My idea of Israel is the idea of “all together” on the same boat.

After joining the army I went to a combat unit. It was a really hard and difficult experience. Although you can always get positive things from almost every experience in life, it was not an easy task.

I’m proud of serving in the IDF and I still need to do “miluim” (reserve) every year.

“Because I want to create and develop the spirit of “Israel”, I also need to defend it. “ That is my motto.

This fight is bigger than just the recruitment of the Ultra-orthodox into the IDF.  This is a fight about the recognition that Israel is for all the Jewish people as equals.

Sharing the burden is not just the for the duties we have in the state of Israel. Sharing the burden is for the obligation we have to develop the Israel we want to see, be proud of and we want to live in.

Judaism is a living organism and we must think and drive it to the path of justice, rightness and peace. Israel is the first vehicle to take us there!

Having an opinion is one step forward!

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