Saturday, October 23, 2004

Goodbye, Hesder?

I am absolutely disgusted by the rabbis who are encouraging their followers to disobey orders regarding the evacuation of the Gaza Strip. As many commentators have noted, however important they think their political cause is, they are risking destroying two things which are even more important: the basic ability of the IDF to function, and the democratic fabric of the country. Ironically, they fail to appreciate that by encouraging soldiers to disobey orders with which they disagree politically, they are conferring legitimacy on the 'refuseniks,' who, on the opposite end of the political spectrum, have declined to serve in the West Bank because they don't think Israel should be there.
If I were a senior figure in the army or a politician, here's what I'd be thinking: "More than 35 years ago, we agreed to set up a hesder system so that the religious nationalist sector in Israel could combine its army service with religious study. The hesder framework was supposed to reinforce the sector's commitment to the army, by making it easier for them to serve, and create a true partnership.
"In the past months, many of the yeshivot have become enemies of the army, which utterly depends on the obedience of its soldiers. Hesder rabbis are encouraging their students to disobey orders; we don't know whether students are more loyal, in this context, to their rabbis or to their commanders. It is a matter of utmost urgency that the Hesder framework be dismantled immediately."
I certainly hope it doesn't come to that. Hesder has long been the pride and joy of the national religious community, for good reason. But that is the extremely real risk which the rabbis are running simply by raising the possiblity of mass disobedience.

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