Nahal hareidi soldiers
Nahal hareidi soldiersIsrael news photo: file

Defense Minister Ehud Barak hosted representatives of various organizations and volunteer groups in his sukkah in the Kirya defense establishment headquarters in Tel Aviv Wednesday. In his speech to the guests, he hailed the hareidi-religious population for gradually opening up to the sovereign State of Israel. 

Among those attending were representatives of the Tzabar seed groups, a program operated by the Israeli Scout Movement, which brings youths from abroad to Israel for military service. These included cadets in pre-military academies and religious seminaries as well as rabbis from the Nachal Hareidi – an army unit especially geared to hareidi-religious youths, in which Jewish laws are strictly adhered to.

"There is no sovereign existence of liberty without the readiness to risk ones life defending it,” Barak said to his guests. “This readiness passes here in a relay race from generation to generation. It requires us to stand up, take responsibility and be ready to act as needed in order to defend the country. You, in your behavior, set an example to other youths of both sexes. You implement the value of responsibility and you represent the antithesis to the prevailing 'it's all about me' spirit in Israeli society.”

Hareidis no longer so disconnected

Barak echoed the words of former US President John F. Kennedy when he said: "In your daily deeds you show the truth of the saying that what a young person can do for his country is more important than what the country can or should give to each individual. This is the spirit of mutual responsibility, or in the words of our sages – 'All of Israel are responsible for each other.'”

Barak added: “There is a varied group here: from Israel and abroad; secular and religious; people from urban and rural communities; members of the Druze community which has tied its fate [to Israel's] in a knot of sacrifice and self-risk from the days just before the state was founded to these very days; and the hareidis who lived in their own world, disconnected from the life of Israel as a sovereign state, and who today, gradually – through the Nachal Hareidi and other avenues – are opening up more and more a window by which they are connecting themselves to the Israeli state.”

These things are all exciting. They gladden us and give us confidence,” he added. “There have always been youths like you. The pioneers of Deganya [one of the first kibbutzim, near the Sea of Galilee – ed.] were 20-year-old youths, and at the time they seemed like they were just going about their day-to-day lives, but in hindsight it is clear that young people like these, in their deeds and their responsibility, in going for the things they believed in, are the ones who determined more than anyone else the future of the state and the country. In this sense you can look proudly – but still with demands from your self – upon this mission that you have taken upon yourselves to lead among Israel's youths.”