Leonie Ben-SimonLeonie Ben-Simon is a freelance journalist with an MBA from Monash University, Victoria Australia.
The decision to eject cadets from an officers’ course for a minor infraction of rules is no more and no less a continuation of the fight for and against the Jewish identity of the Land of Israel. Making an example of four young men who chose to respect Jewish law by walking out when female soldiers were singing means that the IDF is determined to “'kill' them while they are young.”
The perceived threat is simply the rising proportion of religious army commanders turning into a majority as they also rise through the ranks.
In contrast to Biblical days, the IDF has patchy observance of Jewish laws. However, there are changes in the demographic make-up of the country together with the increasing numbers of religious conscripts which provide facts on the ground as to the make-up of the IDF.
The background to this incident is explained by the changing demographics in Israel. While the secular establishment were having two children per family, millions from traditional backgrounds had large families, as did the religious minority. Today one in two Jewish children in the first grade of school is from a religious family.
These families who are dedicated and devoted to the Land of Israel also produce a large percentage of soldiers who willingly take on responsibilities for the country, mostly volunteering for combat service.
The tide has turned. No wonder the secular leaders still holding the balance of power are concerned: their party is almost over. No wonder that their decision-making is so severe as to make an example of these few officers in an attempt to stem the tide of changing the IDF.
When it came to the matter of life and death during Operation Cast Lead, soldiers were eager to go into battle as a Jewish army, but in times of peace the army’s secular decision-makers have concerns about women’s career-progression in the army, time out for prayer and having to change their own lifestyle. In brief, they want Israel to be a nation like all the nations.
The secular leadership has a record of discriminating against traditional Israelis from before the establishment of the State when lists were given to the British to allow immigration to mainly secular Jews. These actions continued with housing allocation discrimination against Sephardim, facilities for schools and within the army. These leaders are the same people who continuously complain that there are not enough chareidi religious being conscripted.
We have now arrived at the tipping point. Those soldiers have chosen not to apologize for refusing to return to a concert when commanded to do so. For that they should be commended.
But there is another solution. In Pirkei Avot we learn that there is something to learn from everyone that we meet. Our enemies have a term “hudna” which means a lull. We can learn that we are still in a time to gather strength prior to a strong push. Our religious soldiers should learn that all they have to do now is to wait another few years as their numbers and positions of power increase.
Then they will be able change the face of the army so that the IDF is a true representation of a Jewish army, with no compromises.