In the Charedi community, advocating for an army draft is a taboo that most rabbis will not break. But in the Charedi stronghold of Beit Shemesh, one rabbi is declaring loudly and proudly that things must change.
“To look back in history over 2,000 years we never faced this situation — when the army was an issue it was always the danger of being drafted into the czar’s army,” said Dov Lipman, who received his rabbinic ordination at an esteemed Charedi yeshivah. “The situation today is very different.”
For Rabbi Lipman, who has just given up his teaching job in a yeshivah to devote more time to activism on the draft and other issues, IDF service will give the Charedim education and skills that will be valuable for the rest of Israel, as well as raising their income.
Rabbi Lipman dismisses two main objections cited by Charedim. He says that they do not need to change their identity as non-Zionists to serve, saying it is a simply matter of sharing the burden facing other Israelis. And he claims that they can serve and “not give up on any element of their belief system”.
But in his view, IDF service is not just religiously acceptable — he sees Jewish tradition as urging Charedim to enlist. “There’s a Talmudic phrase which says that all Jews are responsible for one another, and I can’t think where this applies more than with regard to serving in the army,” he said.