By Shmuel Sackett,
I will surprise many of you by the following nine words: Nobody should be forced to serve in the IDF. My position, and the ideology and vision of my Manhigut Yehudit co-founder, Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, is very clear. We do not want soldiers who don't want to be there. To us, it does not matter why they feel this way. Maybe it is for religious reasons, maybe they want to start university, maybe it is for political reasons (right or left) or maybe they just want to sit home all day and watch TV. Who cares? We simply do not want a person putting on that holy uniform of the IDF if - for whatever reason - they don't see it as the greatest honor and privilege imaginable.
In Israel, everyone talks about religious coercion and how we must fight against it. Instead of forcing our brothers to keep Shabbat, we need to teach them, show them and guide them. Nobody ever became observant because a rock was thrown through their car window by some lunatic screaming "Shabbos"!!! We need to bring our brothers and sisters close to Torah by showing them the beauty and the sweetness. Forcing people may work in the short-term but it never lasts and is never transmitted to the next generation.
The problem with this logic is that people only think it applies to religious coercion when, in reality, it refers to secular coercion as well. Wait a second; did I just write "secular coercion"? Has anybody heard that term before? Well, I just proved my point! Nobody has ever heard about it because it is never discussed... but it exists! Last year a young, religious soldier in the IDF walked out during an army graduation ceremony that featured a woman singing. He did not make noise. He did not insist that she stop singing. He simply picked himself up and quietly exited the room. The media found out about this and went nuts! "Where is his respect?" they asked. "How dare he impose his beliefs on others?" they accused. The same media that talks about tolerance of all was now demanding secular coercion. "The singing was part of the program and he must not leave!" They were absolutely twisting his arm - and the arm of all soldiers in that same uncomfortable position - to sit and listen to the woman sing. This is just one example of what I call "secular coercion" and there are many, many examples.
Moshe Feiglin and I are against all coercion. Stop forcing people to do what they don't want! Please understand that I am not talking about laws which are in place for public safety. Obviously every society needs rules to follow so that the public is safe - from road safety to building codes and everything in between! Rather, I am talking about forcing people to act or think in a certain way. That is totally wrong and societies built on these concepts often crumble quickly.
Let's now use this logic to discuss the IDF draft. This is the "hot issue" of the day and we must take a position on it. I love the IDF. When I made aliyah at the age of 29 with four children, the IDF did not want me. I sent letters, called whomever I could and eventually just walked into a draft center to sign up. Everyone there looked at me as though I was nuts but I didn't care. I came to Israel to build a Jewish Nation and fighting in the IDF was an important part of that dream. Baruch Hashem, they finally took me and I served, in the reserves, for 20 years in an anti-chemical warfare unit. When my son grew up, he proudly entered the IDF and joined the Nahal Haredi unit as a combat soldier. He became a unit commander, and to this day serves in the reserves, ready, willing and able to inflict pain on the Jewish enemy. All of my older girls served in 'National Service' and my 18 year old will be starting her service immediately after high school. In short, we consider service in the IDF to be one of the greatest Mitzvot humanely possible. Think about it; a soldier is not just doing something privately. All at once he is serving himself, his family, his community, his nation and above all - his G-d! There isn't a mitzvah that comes close to that.
That having been said, I do not want to force anyone to join the IDF if they don't feel the same way. Yes, I will try to convince them that they are wrong; that is called education! Yes, I will show them all the Torah sources about the great Jewish leaders - including Moshe Rabbeinu - who led military battles. However, when all is said and done, if the young men I speak with do not want to serve, or the young women do not want to perform national service - it is their right to make that decision and we must honor and respect it.
I have just one problem with this IDF Draft Law: The Chillul Hashem (Desecration of G-d's Name) caused by the people who gather to protest. This makes me crazy! Here, if I could, I would force myself on making them stop because when it comes to Chillul Hashem we do not say "live and let live". For the honor and glory of our Father and King, we must stop these ridiculous and shameful gatherings. In my mind, the people that attended these horror shows were not simply saying Tehillim. They were publicly desecrating the name of Heaven, even though they did not intend that in any way.
When 50,000 religious Jews come to a public place in Manhattan to protest against the draft - as they did 2 weeks ago, they open the door for anti-Semites around the world to condemn the IDF and the holy work they do. Don't get me wrong; there are many things that I do not like about the army but you will never see me talking about it in public. I desperately want to make changes and this is why I have dedicated my life to changing the leadership of the country. The soldiers - each and every one - are precious gems, but, at times the orders they receive are beyond comprehension. This is what we need to fight but not on the streets of Manhattan where the world looks and does not understand. They see 50,000 Orthodox Jews screaming against the army and they misunderstand. Trust me because I am involved in this 24 hours a day. The world uses this against us - "Even your own religious Jews are against the Israeli army" - and it causes Israel irreparable damage.
If the organizers of this shameful act had good intentions, they would have told everyone to gather in their local shul and say Tehillim at a certain time. It could have been synchronized perfectly and Jews all over the world who feel strongly about this issue could have said Tefillot; from California, to NY, to Canada and to Australia! That would have been fine but that was not the intention of the organizers! The intention was to mock, desecrate and delegitimize Israel as the Jewish state and this is something we must not stand for!