(Also, if you don’t like or get tongue-in-cheek humor, you may not like this post.)
The Speech Hechsher for This Post
Because there are 3 participants (the speaker, the listener, and the subject) in a discussion of another person, I got my son’s permission to write about him (although my perceptions of his experience don’t necessarily reflect his perceptions of his experience).
I feel positively about my son and he feels positively about himself, but as stated, there is one more participant in the discussion and that is YOU, the listener/reader.
Needless to say, no matter how positively I write about my son, someone somewhere can read into it lots of negativity. And is this okay?
So I asked a lashon hara expert.
So the lashon hara rav said that it is permitted for a number of reasons, one of which is because I’m anonymous. And he said that the 1 or 2 people who know us already know about my son, so it’s not a big deal for them to know more details.
Finally, again, this post reflects only my perceptions of events. My son might (and often does) have (VERY) different conclusions about the same event.
Why I Thought I Already Understood
(He tried very, very hard to get into a combat unit and is actually well-suited to combat, but he was blocked for reasons I’ll explain in another post.)
Because I initially came to Israel as dati-leumi and frequently hung out with young Israelis who were after army service (mostly paratroopers and armored corps for boys or sherut leumi for girls), I thought I knew a lot about it from the inside.
I originally looked down on those “parasitical” charedim for not sharing the burden of military service.
Later, I also heard the charedi side of things, found it compelling, and that’s the community I ultimately settled in.
So I felt well-informed, both philosophically and socially.
Yet my son’s experiences opened my eyes to so much, some of which I’ll share with you here.
The Hidden Side of the IDF (for Anglos, anyway)
Nearly everything you read in English is about some kind of combat soldier, whether it’s Nachal Charedi or the son of Americans in Golani or Givati, etc.
Every English-language Jewish media outlet (including blogs), whether online or print, whether secular or dati or charedi, only talk about combat soldiers and combat units.
So if that’s all you hear about (and that’s most of what I ever hear about), then you’re automatically getting a skewed view of what’s really going on.
For example, as of 2014, the IDF consisted of 176,500 soldiers. Miluim (a reserve unit consisting of male citizens who serve a month of military service each year until middle age) comprise 445,000.
Of these, combat soldiers make up 26-30,000.
Such a small percentage of the entire IDF is dedicated to combat?
I appreciate these combat soldiers.
But what’s everyone else doing?
Well, there are certainly non-combat positions essential to national security, like Intelligence, watching security cameras, standing guard, and so on.
I appreciate them a lot. Probably you do too.
Do you think that’s what the other thousands of soldiers are doing? Essential security tasks?
But certain politicians and media must push this idea that every IDF job is essential.
And they go to bizarre extremes.
Sharing the Burden of Ponytail-Swinging
I’m not joking.
Yes, everyone goes through a few weeks of basic training, regardless of what job they’re later assigned. But that doesn’t make them quality soldiers. It doesn’t even mean they are fit for guard duty (even if that’s what a recruit ends up doing).
So a girl who enlists to the IDF choir, which once entailed things like unbuttoning her shirt too low and swinging her ponytail and her hips around as she sings, is considered to have “carried” her “fair share of the burden” regarding military service.
This is despite the fact that her performances did NOT make the country safer in any way whatsoever, and if you look at it from a spiritual point of view, her performances actually WEAKEN the Israeli military and increase strict judgment over the Land and the Am in general because as has been pointed out for millennia, Hashem hates pritzut and breaches in tsniut.
Furthermore, some people harshly condemn religious soldiers who choose not to watch their holy sisters objectify themselves in such a manner by quietly leaving & avoiding the whole spectacle.
But even non-religious Jews should be able to recognize the utter uselessness of a choir or dance troupe as MILITARY service.
Yet several years ago, when Israel wanted to give a singing award to one of its female pop artists, an older male singer objected because she hadn’t served in the army (meaning in the IDF choir), and therefore had not carried her "share of the military burden," and thus should be disqualified.
You have to wonder why some people (often secular Leftists) froth so intensely over the enforcement of even the most meaningless “military” service.
Because it is completely irrational to believe that a teenage female singer benefits the security of a country surrounded by some of the most vicious terror groups in the world, it seems there might be some kind of agenda at play here.
Here are some more examples of useless "military" service:
Sharing the Burden of Watching Pirated Movies Online
She sat in her office all the livelong day watching movies and texting on her cell phone while dressed in official IDF uniform.
Only once, during the 6 months my son was there, did she fulfill her duty: She showed them an American movie.
Yet in Israeli society and according to some of the more befuddled leaders, this is considered military service and she is commended for upholding her “share of the burden.”
Culturally, she is considered a worthier citizen than, say, a chareidi woman who is gainfully employed, contributes to increasing the Jewish population on Eretz Hakodesh, and actively participates in the Israeli economy as a consumer. Not to mention all the mitzvot our frum heroine does, which increases merits & sweetens din over the entire Jewish people.
Another IDF serviceman sat in his office all day in some kind of human resources position. Apparently, if one of servicepeople had a problem with something, they could turn to him.
How often do you think a group of only 300 people who went home every week or two needed his services?
Right. Hardly ever.
The Top-Brass of Hungover Moppers
They apparently needed to rest more on Day 2. Day 3 saw a cursory cleaning before they went back home. Sometimes, they didn’t even show up on Day 1, serving their oh-so essential military duty only 2 days a week.
Yet again, there are many Israelis who consider this “military service” and credit this pair with “sharing the burden,” elevating them to a status far above that of a charedi father who learns Gemara, invests in an apartment in Eretz Yisrael, and contributes in so many ways to Israeli society and the economy.
Look, if you consider a few hours of hungover kvetching and half-hearted mopping to be a far more significant contribution to Israeli society (and security!) than shteiging away in front of a Gemara all day, then I’m not sure you & I can have much of a conversation about this.
But you probably don’t exalt hungover kvetching & half-hearted mopping because if you did, you would probably avoid reading this kind of blog.
Sharing the Candy Bar Burden
Now, we know that soldiers need to replenish supplies.
Even though the non-combat types, like on this base only stay for a week or 2 at a time, people still run out of stuff and need replenishment.
Part of the job was making sure the store was well-stocked with popular American candy bars and candy-covered chocolates.
Perhaps there is some deep military secret behind ensuring that every IDF recruit receives his full ration of chalav akum American junkfood that, by the time it gets to the Israel, tastes like its wrapper.
Do I dare question whether this constitutes “sharing the burden”?
(No, I didn’t eat it; I’m a chalav-Yisrael-only type of gal. But I’ve eaten American candy bars in Israel before. Let me leave it like this: Just stick with Taami (yum!) and all those chalav Yisrael guys.)
Real Friends Share Burdens
Yet how did my son know about it?
Why, he and his fellow Israeli Supermen spent entire days in air-conditioned rooms watching American TV shows on a giant LD screen.
You see, dear reader, there exists the unconscionable scandal of yeshivah students who are studiously avoiding the military draft by parasitically shteiging away with Rav Assi and Rebbi Meir, while our boys sit in IDF uniform watching depraved American sitcoms and eating Reese’s Pieces!
How long will Israeli society tolerate this vile injustice?
Oh, wait! They’re NOT tolerating this terrible inequality—there are obsessed politicians working in a frenzy to make sure that EVERYONE shares "the burden”! (Although chocolate and TV has never seemed much of a burden to me, personally, but then again, I’m not exactly an anti-Torah Leftist. Anti-Torah Leftists seem to feel differently about things.)
In other words: No parasites allowed!
Okay. Let’s define that more clearly:
- Learning Gemara – parastical.
- Watching depraved American sitcoms in IDF uniform while eating Reese’s Pieces – doing your civic duty and sharing the military burden.
Got it? Good!
Needless to say, fond reader, this is EXACTLY why I made aliyah and supported my son in his IDF service: so that he could become fully acquainted with ALL the degenerate Hollywood programming I’d left far behind! Plus chalav akum candy bars!
Im tirtzu, ein zo agadah!
The 2 Lone Tzaddikim
There were 2 dati soldiers who used all that spare time to learn chevrusa together.
And this may shock the “share the burden” extremists, but learning Gemara in all your spare time actually does more for Israel’s security and success than Friends and American candy bars.
Now, if they had all that spare time and weren’t really serving a role necessary to Israel’s security, then why couldn’t they just be in yeshivah? What is the point?
However, I do want to commend them and say that if the IDF was an authentically Jewish army, this is what the soldiers would be doing when not actively engaged in a vital task: learning Torah.
Kol hakavod to these two bachurim.
But it sure wasn't everyone.
And that's the whole point of this post.
Is this necessary or not?
Yes, in-base weapons need guarding. Some soldiers steal things.
But I question whether you need actual soldiers or whether Israel's hi-tech systems would be both cheaper and more effective than a teenage boy.
Literally, I question this. I don't know enough about security system effectiveness and costs to answer this affirmatively.
However, I suspect this is yet another non-essential job available to take in the glut of soldiers not qualified for essential jobs, but I'm honestly not sure and am willing to be corrected by someone who actually knows for sure.
This means that for 1 week, you are on an army base, then the next week you work at a pizza parlor or waiting tables in a restaurant, then the next week you are on base again, then the week after that, you’re back to pizza and waiting tables.
And this continues until you are officially discharged from the IDF.
Now, why would the IDF institute something like shavua-shavua?
Because there are way too many people for certain jobs.
For example, you couldn’t have all the firemen or cooks serving at the same time because there just aren’t enough jobs to go around. Meaning, some parts of the IDF are vastly overstaffed.
Having said that, the IDF very recently phased out a lot of shauva-shavua roles, but shavua-shavua still exist for cooks and I can’t remember who else.
But the necessity of shavua-shavua is something else to keep in mind when someone starts frothing at the mouth about charedim not “sharing the burden.”
If there is a glut of soldiers in certain areas, then why are they so obsessed with increasing this glut?
Why Does It Take 5 Girls to Watch a Radar Screen? And Since When Do Soldiers Serve as Field Hands?
She was embittered about it because it had been clear to her that while you might need 2 radar-gazers, you certainly do not need 5 per screen.
And so she spent her service doing this useless busy-work while subjected to standard military discipline if she didn’t do her useless busy-work according to protocol. (Plus, I think there was also lots of coffee-bringing involved.)
Furthermore, when I was a young datia-leumit, I met a young man who explained that his army service consisted of tending fields on a kibbutz. Not GUARDING the fields from marauders, but actually working like a farmer.
I totally did not get this at that time. Completely flummoxed, I kept asking him about it in an effort to clarify. ("But how is that ARMY service? Why did the IDF put you there? Why do they need SOLDIERS to till the fields?")
Realizing how foolish it sounded, he got all sheepish about it, which made me realize I should leave him alone and change the subject. So I did.
Later, I asked my combat and sherut leumi friends for clarification, but they just laughed, agreeing that it did sound kind of absurd to label farming as military service. And no one was able to explain the rationale behind it.
But the above taught me that parts of the IDF were and are overstaffed, and that they assign people to meaningless duties simply because with a mandatory draft, there is no other choice.
But I was really shocked to learn of the amount of “soldiers” serving in useless positions or positions of questionable necessity, and spending a huge chunk of their “service” in vapid recreation.
The above examples are just a sampling.
Why the Obsession with Sharing an Imaginary Burden?
It COULD mean that if you go to a position VITAL for Israel's security.
But for many recruits, the "burden" is largely imaginary. Some recruits aren't doing anything remotely burdensome or even minimally useful. (I'm looking at you, Culture & Recreation Girl!) It's propaganda.
From a purely rational military point of view, it greatly disturbs me that certain officials are so obsessed with enlisting every last 18-year-old in the country, even if it means a waste of funds for completely meaningless duties, when Israel is surrounded on every border by masses of terrorists who are horrifically savage and intent on the genocide of every Jew in Eretz Yisrael.
Why are certain politicians and certain military officials so much more obsessed about ensuring that Shmulik from Bnai Brak serves even the most meaningless role (as long as it’s in “official” army capacity) rather than learning Torah or getting a vocation or getting married and raising a family?
Why is that more important to them than securing Israeli citizens against war and genocide?
Rationally speaking, as political & military leaders in such a dangerous & volatile region, their ONLY focus should be on security.
So why the obsession with recruiting every last Tova, Dan, and Hirshy?
How could you say that a person should avoid military service in Israel when there are millions of Jews living there who have to be protected?
It's shocking how current his answer was because he said this in 1978!!!