Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Somewhere along the line

"Somewhere along the line, in the service of home and country, I forgot about the service of G-d." Israeli soldier who left religion during his time in the army. (N. Seltzer, Stories with a Twist, p. 66)

The Israeli army experience has an intensity unlike that probably of any army in the world, except maybe North Korea. It isn't only about training in warfare or technology. It's indoctrination about the Holocaust, about Arabs, about alleged Israeli invincibility, about how God supposedly didn't protect us in the past so we'll do it for ourselves now.

This of course is the dynamic of the Sin of the Golden Calf. Moshe hadn't returned so they made an idol to replace him. The army is that idol. 

It's all done with a religious fervor by people who have no other religion. And a young person can easily get lost in the shouting, bullying, chest pumping, and propagandizing. The intent is to transfer obedience to Hashem to obedience to commanders. 

Military training in general is designed to create obedience to commanders. How else do you teach a normal person to kill? Most people don't have that in them. That's why universal draft only makes sense when a country is being invaded by another nation. You pay a big price for a draft. It damages people. And it really damages those who are not military types, which is most people. 

It does not make sense just to draft people because maybe, maybe you'll need them in a time of war. Nothing is free in this life. You pay a big price for drafting the whole nation. And I'm not even talking about the economic price which is also huge. I'm talking about a psychological price. 

And then there's the religious price. The army experience kills religious feeling. I have seen that in soldier after soldier. Publicity shots of soldiers wearing tefillin by the kosel are just that, publicity photos. They mask what goes on in the hearts of the soldiers which is a change from yiras shemayim to yiras Chief of Staff, yiras Colonel, Heaven save us.


The Israeli draft is a complete violation of religious freedom because the Israeli army is a religion unto itself. No wonder soldiers come in religious and leave non-religious. I have met more than a few like that.

The one in the N. Seltzer story found his way back. Others do not.

For chilonim, there is damage too. I know several who told me the army ruined them. One told me he still gets nightmares. Another told me he contemplated suicide regularly while in the army. But the contrast of pre-army to army is not nearly as big. chilonim don't lose their religion in the army. They are raised on the army of religion.

In my view, the Israeli army should be a professional army. America loses far more soldiers every year but still staffs its enormous military. And only parts of America are military oriented. All of Israel, except for the charedim, is obsessed with the military and Israel actually loses very few soldiers. So I doubt they'd  have trouble filling their ranks with professional soldiers. This is the belief of the Zehut party.

Leave the charedim out of it please. We don't want your money. We just want no part of the military and its culture.

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