In an amazing turn of events, Israel’s hesder yeshivot have become public enemy number one as a result of the dati-leumi headed Shaked Committee.
Some feel that Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett’s conspicuous silence following this week’s decision to impose criminal sanctions signal Bennett realizes something has gone amok. Just a few short months ago, hesder soldiers were respected and viewed as loyal citizens of the state and ardent Zionists committed to the modern Jewish nation. Today, they are viewed as taking a back seat to chareidim for having duped the system for so many years, and brazenly portraying themselves as pulling their ‘share the burden’ weight when today, the emperor has no clothes. Hesder is being pulled apart in the media, lending support to the long battle waged by MK (The Movement) Elazar Stern, who feels hesder should be dismantled and the soldiers integrated among the regular IDF units.
Amid growing radio air time dedicated to hesder bashing and printed media against hesder and its rabbonim, the Chief Rabbis of Israel have come out in defense of the dati leumi yeshivos.
For the yet uninitiated, hesder students commit to 60 months and during the five-year program they are active soldiers for 16 months. In actuality however, about 50% of the close to 3,000 header talmidim nationwide leave the program and make the decision during their military service to stay on, opting for NCO training and/or officers training. In addition, some enter more elite units which have increasingly rigorous and lengthy training demands, not permitting a return to the beis medrash. This has been some of the criticism from chareidim to those who feel hesder is comparable to a chareidi yeshiva gedola. The critics point out that they lose so many talmidim along the way, sucked into the army and out of beis medrash.
Today, the 16 months of hesder service is insufficient in placating the mounting criticism for they are not bound to leave hesder and those wishing to, may make due to a mere 16 months of military service. The addition of an additional month of service by the Shaked Committee to 17 months has actually worsened the situation. The critics accuse the committee of “throwing sand in our eyes as if we are blind to the fact they are barely serving the country”.
Rishon L’Tzion Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and Chief Rabbi David Lau are beginning to visit hesder yeshivot to lend their support. Rabbi La visited Yeshivat HaKotel and spoke of how they are MeKadesh Shem Shomayim, strongly backing the hesder network.
Rav Yosef traveled a bit further, to the Chispin Hesder Yeshiva in the Golan Heights, and while his presence was most appreciated his address was less Zionistic as his hashkafa is more chareidi than that of his Ashkenazi counterpart.
Rav Yitzchak emphasized the paramount importance of limud Torah towards being a good Jew, and he acknowledged as hesder permits limud and army service. “Remain strong in the IDF and HKBH will be at your side” he told talmidim and rabbonim.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)