Thoughts, observations and photos of life with a view from the south of Israel.
Ein Gedi Botanic Garden
Seek the serenity of a Judean Desert sky in Autumn at the Ein Gedi Botanic Garden
Monday, May 12, 2014
Israel's Knesset Burying Law to Exempt Female Draft Dodgers?
Are Israeli lawmakers quietly trying to bury a law that would punish young women for dodging the draft?
Perhaps. A report broadcast on Voice of Israel public radio pointed out that a law passed two years ago was never really enacted.
In 2012, the measure made it illegal for a secular young woman to lie to the IDF about her religious observance. A special Knesset committee was appointed to “fine tune” the details on the law, and that was the end of that.
In the United States, this is the strategy known as “let’s bury it in committee for a while till things cool off.”
But Jews don’t forget – or forgive – as easily as others. And sure enough, the “Hidush” organization is up in arms. Attorney Uri Regev, head of the secularist NGO, released a statement saying, “The burial of the law against female draft dodgers is a disgusting act of defrauding the public.” He went on and on in a rant that was boring and frankly, ridiculous.
"Two years ago, the Knesset celebrated and took full credit for the amendment to the law, which will make it possible to put female draft evaders on trial. One could have expected it to ratify the regulations, the moment it received them. It is hard to imagine a possible reason for failing to do this, and continuing to protect the female evaders. Up until two years ago, thousands of young women evaded service by taking advantage of a legal loophole. In the last two years they have been riding roughshod on the law with the Knesset’s direct patronage.
"The burial of the Female Draft Evaders’ Law is further proof of how corrupting the connection between religion and politics is. The MKs’ failure to act is made much more serious by the fact that they were debating and planning, at the same time, to lengthen the period of service of women in the IDF. This is a clear example of the actions that cause the Knesset to lose all of the voters’ trust. It is also the kind of case that force the High Court to intervene in the Knesset’s work. If the MKs do not want the High Court to force them to convene and ratify the regulations, they had better do their jobs.”
But why bother?
This is silly. Why force women into the military if they don’t want to go? What exactly are you expecting them to do? Are you going to force them to hold a gun, to face the enemy, to kill a terrorist threatening your family? Or did you simply want them there so they can get the Major’s coffee in the morning?
Can they actually do anything useful if they are so terrified they cannot face the thought of putting on the uniform? What sort of human being even thinks of forcing an 18-year-old girl into military service?
It’s bad enough that we as a nation are forced to mandate our sons into this position. As Jewish men and women, we know the need for defense of our People and our Land. We have trained our youth to defend themselves, their families and their People and those who live together with us, and they do it incredibly well.
But isn’t it odd that it is Hidush making these demands? With all the screaming about “equalizing the burden” and how the big, bad yeshiva people aren’t doing their part, here we find a secularist NGO aiming at teenage girls. Where have you been hiding? And why now?
This phenomenon is not new.
Up to this point, all Israeli teens entered the military at age 18 except those disabled in some way, or studying full time in yeshiva if they were male; females who were religiously observant and could prove it were automatically exempt as well. So were all Christians and all Arabs. Druze, Bedouin and Circassian young men have for many years volunteered; they comprise the IDF’s best tracking units, among other special forces.
But many secular Israelis have found ways to get out of serving; some went abroad. Others managed through professional sports and other means.
The military itself provided some with options that were more palatable: there were those who became doctors and went to medical school in exchange for later service, but for a longer tour of duty. The army even picked up the tab for their education. Some became members of the entertainment corps; they sang their way from one stage to the next. Others became broadcasters and journalists for the army’s radio station, Galei Tzahal, and its magazine, HaMachane. Nowadays one can also try out for the Cyber Defense Unit – but this means you have to be really good in computers.
In the past few years the IDF created new units and developed a few programs that made it easier for the observant sector to enlist as well; thus the Shachar Kachol unit came into being, as did the Nachal Hareidi Brigade. Both are uniquely tailored to the needs of observant men. In the latter unit, men learn to fight the enemy in ways few ever do. That unit has scored some impressive victories, a few at high cost.
War has many faces, some bloodier than others. Why force a girl to wear any?
Not that I oppose military service. I personally believe it to be a good thing. When I arrived in this country at the age of 24, I tried to enlist – only to be told I was “too old.” A brand new immigrant from the United States and child of two Jewish war veterans, I was outraged to discover that women at that age are already over the hill for the Jewish State. Worse, the IDF recruiting officer informed me with a grin that the best thing I could do for my country was to “get married and have babies.” That was the “Zionist thing for a woman to do” at my age, he told me. In 1979, Haifa, not Jerusalem.
So much for Israel’s idea of female soldiering. I am still not real clear about why the state persists in drafting girls these days, but I believe there should be no penalty if a girl decides not to go. At the end, it’s her loss.
Some girls want to enlist and look forward to the day that they will. These young women should have the right to join and should not encounter that famed glass ceiling when they do. It’s long past the time when we need to force young women to the front. We are no longer a nation of just a few thousand, and this is no longer 1948.
It’s time to let Israel grow up, Atty. Regev. And let the military grow up, too.