MKs Debate: What Does Torah Say about Enlistment?
A heated debate took place Tuesday as Members of Knesset from the hareidi-religious Shas party and from the secular Yesh Atid faced off to talk about hareidi-religious army enlistment. The two argued as part of a panel on Channel 99, the Knesset TV Channel.
MK Nissim Zeev of Shas opened by saying, “You can’t change a hareidi population against its will by legislation… It won’t help.”
MK Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid, an American immigrant of eight years who defines himself as hareidi, insisted that Zeev debate the basics. “Does our Torah value military service for Torah –observant Jewish men yes or no? Yes or no?” he asked.
“Of course,” said MK Zeev. The two then debated whether or not the Biblical tribe of Levy set a precedent of Torah study for some during times of war, with MK Ze'ev concluding, “Today, the service is Torah study!”
“No! No! That’s not what’s written!” replied a visibly excited Lipman. “That’s a distortion… When there was a battle they would go to the battlefield and pray there. So don’t tell me that they sat in a study hall, isolated… “
The two then returned to debating the proper way to put Torah into practice today.
“I asked if it was a value, and you said yes,” Lipman told Zeev. “So why don’t we, as Torah –observant Jews, say, ‘OK, we’ll sit together, and plan yeshivas that combine Torah study and military service, the students will learn technology...’ We’ll sit together. You’re always saying, ‘Nobody will tell us what to do!’ and then there’s a war between us. There doesn’t need to be a war between us. I love you, you’re my brother.”
MK Zeev interjected, saying, “There’s no war [between us], there’s no war.”
“So why don’t we sit down together?” asked MK Lipman.
“Let’s do that!” Zeev responded. “But not like this, not through legislation… If you approach this using volunteerism, you can achieve much more than you could be declaring war on the hareidi public. The hareidi public sees itself as being persecuted by this government.”
“That’s because of the leaders!” MK Lipman interjected. He then extended his hand, “Here, shake my hand… Do you want to work together? Want to unite the nation, to bring redemption? Do you want that, or not?”
“They don’t want to,” a third guest interjected.
“Let’s stop with the legislation,” Zeev repeated. “Let’s stop the legislation… You’re not living in the real world.”
“So let’s change reality,” said Lipman.
The religious Zionist rabbinic leaders have also urged that the yeshiva student enlistment issue be solved by reaching an agreement which is discussed beforehand with the heads of the relevant yeshivas before passing legislation.