401. Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox up in Arms

Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox up in Arms
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
For years, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) community has been exempt from military service. This may soon change, and the Haredim are not happy. Last February, Israel’s High Court struck down the Tal Law, enacted in 2002 which had provided a legal framework for full-time Haredim students studying in Jewish Seminary (yeshivot) to indefinitely defer military or national service. The law officially expired on August 1, potentially changing the status of 54,000 full-time students.

During a recent protest of the change in status, leading rabbis from the ultra-orthodox community asserted that they are the true soldiers of the Jewish people, and soldiers who abandon their posts are traitors. Many of these leaders are considered anti-Zionist, and one expressed his firm conviction that it was the Zionists that expelled the Arabs from the land of Israel, so what right do they have to disturb those who study Torah? The highest authority, Rabbi Tuviah Weiss urged the crowd not to despair and not to be afraid of the forces of the state. “We will not allow them to take yeshiva students to the army or the police,” he said. “It is incumbent on us to give up our lives and not stray from the path. This is our task, to teach our children the value of self sacrifice for the sake of the Torah.”

“The protest was called for five o’clock in the morning because that is when the gates of heaven open to receive prayer,” (really?) said Pini Rosenberg, a spokesman for the demonstration. He warned that the government should prepare 50,000 prison spaces to absorb yeshiva students who will refuse to be drafted and not hesitate to go to jail.

AS I SEE IT
While the Haredim are unwilling to offer themselves to defend their nation, they are more than willing to militantly come against any of their fellow Jews who embrace Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah. To the best of my knowledge, no messianic believer has ever refused military service. The Haredim are the modern-day Pharisees who revel in their self-righteousness while ignoring true godly virtues.

I will never forget the plane ride home after my first trip to Israel. A few seats ahead of my wife and me sat an ultra-Orthodox couple and their two children. For most of the flight across the Atlantic they ranted and complained, shouting what appeared to be profanities at the flight attendants, disturbing everyone within earshot. The children were rude, disobedient, and nearly as obnoxious as their parents. As they departed in New York City, they left behind more trash and debris than you would expect to find on the entire plane. The experience reminded me that as an Ambassador for Christ, I must always represent Him well, because someone, somewhere, is watching me.

While it may be unfair to judge and entire group by the behavior of one family, the incident did seem to reinforce the image that had formed during our time in Israel. While claiming to be the devoted caretakers of the Torah, they seem to have missed the heart of its message. I doubt if many in Israel are surprised at the backlash resulting from the government’s possible plans to force them into service for their country.

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