While charedim have always been against army service for several valid reasons (preferring instead to rely solely on prayer and mitzvot to protect our Land and our people), the recent upsurge of anti-enlistment sentiment accompanied by inflammatory (and sort of amusing, if you have the sense of humor of a 5-year-old) posters, pamphlets, fliers, along with a slur specifically created to describe charedi boys who join the IDF: chardak.
Walking around our neighborhood, you can see stickers slapped onto street sign poles and guard rails with charming slogans like: "Chardak hu cheidak!—A chardak is a germ!"
Or possibly, "a cootie."
A couple of boys' schools were even handing out such stickers to their students.
Well, I've always known that my son would join the army.
He used to sit in his high chair and bite his slice of whole wheat bread into the shape of a gun and then proudly show it off.
For Purim, he has dressed in every type of soldier costume available, plus a police costume a couple of times.
Since he was little, he has been obsessed with guns and artillery and soldiers and so on. He has always talked about becoming a soldier.
And now he is. And yes, I'm very proud of him. (UPDATE 2020: This was written when he was still in basic training. The continuation of his army service ended up as a big disappointment, and he even got himself discharged early. See HERE for the series on that.)
So I told him that he is not really a chardak because the char stands for "charedi," which he is not, by his own definition. (But yes, he is religious. Just not charedi. Which is fine.)
But really, he doesn't care.
He has never been afraid of confrontation (or afraid of anything, as far as I can tell) and said that when he would finally be in uniform, he intended to get off the bus at the first stop in our neighborhood and then walk home like that in the hope that doing so would provide ample opportunity for someone to yell chardak at him, and then he would jump them.
Except he wouldn't because at this age, he prefers verbal confrontation to physical confrontation.
Anyway, it didn't work.
Despite his hakpadah to put on his uniform every single time he needs to leave the house for any reason, no one has attacked him in any way. He wore his uniform to go check his motorcycle outside. He puts it on just to take out the garbage. He wore it to go out and help his father with the Erev Shabbat shopping. He wore it to get his post-Lag B'Omer haircut, and so on.
But it has all been one big disappointment.
So, what have the reactions been?
Well, a group of our neighbors' children gathered round him and held a whispered debate about whether he was a real soldier or just dressing like one.
The main machloket centered on my son's lack of weaponry:
How can he be a soldier without a gun?
The inquisitive kinderlach struggled to come up with a satisfying teirutz.
Another time, a chassid approached him and asked if he was in Nachal Charedi.
"No," said my son.
"Huh," said the chassid.
And that was it.
At the barber shop, another chassid jokingly asked if my son planned to go to India after his stint in the army.
My son didn't answer.
No one else said anything.
The frum barber wished my son mazal tov on his enlistment.
And that was it.
His younger brothers accompanied him on some of his uniformed forays around the neighborhood, hoping to witness some action.
But, alas. Nothing.
Anyway, because every community has its hyped-up knuckleheads, I'm sure that at some point, someone will say or do something obnoxious.
But until then....
Yes, my son admits he considered chasing him down, then decided the bachur was too pathetic to bother with.
And that was the only incident I know of throughout all the time he was wearing his uniform in our charedi neighborhood.
I'm sure that the hate-filled journalists would be disappointed to hear this, especially since the offender was not even chassidish (chassidim are the favorite whipping boy of self-hating Jewish journalists), but I'm sorry to tell those journalists that I do not know of any other incidents throughout the whole 18 months of service other than that one.
This is the source of the divide.