During the one-year program for English-speakers at Bar Ilan University, I ended up spending a lot of time and many Shabboses with dati-leumi people and my friends were dati-leumi Israelis who’d just finished their stint in the army or sherut leumi (national service for girls).
I very much wanted to contribute to my beloved country by diving into sherut leumi.
Before I left Eretz Yisrael, I met with a sherut leumi coordinator (who was very nice) and made loose plans regarding my upcoming aliyah and service with her.
I returned to America and immediately started readying myself for aliyah by shopping and making some money.
But when I met with my region’s aliyah representative, he immediately discouraged me from sherut leumi.
I was dumbstruck.
Everything I’d encountered in Israeli society emphasized the importance of serving your country in some way, whether army service or national service.
Why was a government rep of Medinat Yisrael trying to shove me off?
Instead, he insisted that I go to a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz.
At that point, I knew enough to know that Hashomer Hatzair was on the extreme anti-religious Left. I argued with him, saying stuff like, “Look at how I’m dressed! I’m religious! Why would you place me with Hashomer Hatzair?”
He just laughed and said that I should go, I’d enjoy it and meet a nice boy and get married and settle down there.
That’s when I realized that he had an ulterior motive to make me a secular socialist Leftist.
I argued with him some more while he smirked and chuckled, then he signed me up for a “religious” kibbutz.
I was crushed and felt helpless.
I so badly wanted to prove my loyalty and patriotism, and become part of Israeli society, but wasn’t allowed to by the very government that always insisted this was sooooo important.
Anyway, to make a long & convoluted story shorter & simpler, I arrived at the kibbutz and had a miserable time. It was barely religious and there were no resources for olim chadashim, even though they technically had an ulpan program supposedly catering to olim chadashim.
But the ulpan only went as high as teaching kindergarten-reading Hebrew and I was stressed out because I desperately needed to improve my Hebrew to get a job.
It was just a miserable, unfriendly place on top of everything else and I wasn’t the only one suffering. In fact, some of the olim (like one from Moscow and another from Iran) suffered much more with absolutely no other option — and no one on the kibbutz cared a whit.
No one cared about you and there were no resources to help you leave the kibbutz for employment or vocational training. I think it was just a money-making scheme where the kibbutz also enjoyed free labor from the olim.
Finally, I “escaped” (and I wasn’t the only one) and ended up at a chareidi seminary for baalei teshuvah, where I became very happy and fulfilled.
Fortunately, that girl from Moscow also made her way to a chareidi seminary for Russian girls, where she found fulfillment, and the Iranian boy also made his way to a yeshivah with a lot of Iranian boys, where he also found fulfillment.
Actually, a lot of the Russian boys on my kibbutz “escaped” to a yeshivah.
And all of us were so much happier in a vibrantly frum learning environment.
So we all had a happy ending, baruch Hashem.
But my point is that many government officials (and journalists) just like to browbeat religious people.
They don’t actually care about you serving the country or “carrying your fair share of the burden.”
They just want you to be soulless live-in-the-moment materialists like themselves.
(By the way, I have other stories of “official” hypocrisy on this subject. I didn’t come to this conclusion based on my one experience. But I’m just using my one experience as an example.)
Anyway, politicians and journalists are very good a whipping up innocent citizens into a frenzy about those who are not serving the country in “official” capacity.
And that’s a terrible rock to wedge between Jews who would otherwise get along quite well together.
May Hashem bring us together in genuine achvah under the canopy of Torah.