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Rights of Religious Soldiers and the Right to Our Land

By Rabbi Lazer Brody
3/12/2013, 11:03 PM

"And He (Hashem) gave them (the Jewish people) the lands of nations (the Canaanites, Philistines)...for them to safeguard His statutes and observe His teachings" (Psalm 105:44-45).

In the above passage, King David - Hashem's anointed - tells us exactly why Hashem gave us the Land of Israel: not to be a nation like any other nation, but to be His chosen people who learn Torah and observe its commandments with no compromise.

Personal holiness is the foundation of Judaism, the element that brings us close to The Almighty and separates us from every other nation. The Torah warns, "For Hashem, your G-d, walks in the midst of your camp to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you; so your camp shall be holy, so that He will not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from you" (Deuteronomy 23:15). Our national security depends on personal holiness. Our future in Israel depends on our commitment to Torah; these are not my words, but the words of King David, cited above.

Unfortunately, the IDF nowadays doesn't seem to care about Hashem's commandments in general and personal holiness in particular.

Last week, a religious soldier was jailed for refusing to shave his beard. He went through IDF protocol, and "signed on for a beard" in the base chaplain's office. But the haughty base commander didn't like the idea of a bearded airman, a helicopter mechanic. He threw the young man in jail.

Last year, several top officer candidates were booted out of officer-training course for refusing to listen to female soldiers sing at an assembly.

Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, one of the founders of the Nachal Haredi, recently protested the IDF's breaching of promises to Haredi soldiers, among other things, forced mingling with women.

I know that this post will fall on deaf ears. But I cannot be silent on this. We face severe security challenges on all our borders. Hashem only knows if Hezbulla has aleady attained chemical weapons. Al Qaida now parades along the Golan borders. Egypt is worse than a Jihadi wild-west show. And any day now, Iran will have its A-bomb.

Our felafel-republic politicians want to convince the inane masses that all our economic and security problems are from the "Haredi draft-dodging". They all know that nothing is further from the truth, but hating the Haredis works effectively at the ballot box. Nevertheless, by uprooting Torah scholars and drafting them into an army that doesn't want them (unless they assimilate into secular society), they are uprooting our very right to the Land of Israel.

The IDF's trampling of Haredi/religious soldiers' basic beliefs is also a trampling of Torah, which unfortunately is another trampling of our very right to this land. 

If the IDF really cares about inducting Haredi soldiers, and if it really cares about our national security, it should start adhering to what King David said in Psalm 105.

Anti-religious bias, or any other type of bias for that matter, has no place in the army. Forcing soldiers to go against Torah is a crime, and commanders who do so are the ones who should be sitting in jail.

Until the IDF cleans up its act, and firmly anchors the rights of religious soldiers, then all the talk of "equal sharing of the burden" is meaningless. Military service is a wonderful privilege, only if it enhances one's allegiance to Torah rather than undermining it.