Hareidi men, police clash (archive)
Hareidi men, police clash (archive) Israel news photo: Flash 90

A booklet put out by an anti-Zionist hareidi-religious sect is making the rounds of hareidi-religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The booklet urges young hareidi men to go to jail rather than to join the army, and assures them that jail is probably not as bad as they believe.

The 44-page booklet opens with an explanation of the history of hareidi-religious non-enlistment, and the legal issues that have led to attempts to require hareidi men to enlist for the first time in generations.

It assures readers that the army does not actually need hareidi soldiers. New technology means fewer foot soldiers are needed, the writers argued. In addition, they said, enlisting hareidi soldiers would be “a headache” for the military, which would need to provide special food and other conditions in accordance with the hareidi-religious lifestyle.

Prison 'a Chance to Sanctify G-d's Name'
The writers then addressed an issue that may be worrying many young men: the possibility of being sent to jail for refusal to enlist.

They first praised the young hareidi men who have refused to even appear for an initial medical exam as “the heroes, the brave, those who sanctify G-d’s name.” Those men have not been sent to prison, they noted.

They then assured their readers, “We discovered that while jail is, of course, not normally a pleasant place to be, and while all people have a natural fear of being arrested, the military prison isn’t a ‘bear.’ Despite the rumors, it would not be solitary confinement – it is a place where one can maintain a reasonable lifestyle, and even learn Torah (you can bring books).”

“This isn’t a Soviet state yet,” they added, “and there are international protocol set by the Red Cross and the like about treatment of prisoners. And with G-d’s help, all the young men will be released in a matter of weeks or days, after fulfilling that rare mitzvah [commandment] of sacrificing themselves to sanctify G-d’s name.”

Those who are jailed for refusing to enlist will not be abandoned, they promised. “The Agudah, which works for the public good, has an emergency plan in case even one young man is arrested. What we can tell you is that as soon as even a single young man – even a single young man – is arrested, the entire country will tremble,” they wrote.

At Least there are No Iphones
The booklet concluded with a practical guide to spending time in prison. “It is highly recommended to bring writing supplies, a number of pens, booklets, paper,” it said, noting that great rabbis have written famous works while in prison.

It noted the prohibition on bringing telephones into prison. “We must recall the great kindness of this decree. This is the only place in the secular world not infested by iphones and the like. Thank G-d! If only the places in which hareidi Jews work would be as free of the impurities of the internet as Prison 4 is.”

It concluded with a reminder to young hareidi men of the great spiritual benefits that the authors believe they will merit in prison. “These dark places can become a holy place where we keep the most important mitzvah… Every bit of suffering: the uncomfortable bed, the tiring assemblies, the lack of suitable companions, the less-than-fresh food – all of these are like a sacrifice on the alter!”

Hareidi-religious Jews are facing the prospect of being required to enlist in the IDF, after decades during which young men could defer IDF service in favor of full-time Torah study.

The government’s Equal Burden of Service Committee is currently working to create a law that would officially set new rules for the draft.

Most hareidi Jews believe that Torah study is a means of contributing to national defense, and say the IDF is not suitable for hareidi men, who live by strict rules regarding gender segregation and other social mores. Even those hareidi leaders who support IDF service have warned that forced enlistment will be met with strong resistance.