Privileged to Serve the Nation and Protect Its Land
One of the key issues that almost brought on early elections in Israel is the exemption from the mandatory draft that certain political powers wish to extend to certain communities in the country. Others, who do not fit into these categories, feel an unfair burden and are calling themselves “The Camp of the Exploited.” They feel that they are giving more than their fair share in army service – training, guarding and fighting for the safety of the nation of Israel and protecting its borders. Naturally, those who serve are actually putting their lives at stake for the well being of all the others. They are demanding – and rightfully so – that all who enjoy the protection of the Israeli Defense Force should chip in and make their own contributions for the good of the nation, the entire nation. Political parties representing both sides use this as a key issue to get those concerned to vote for them and newspapers and other news outlets to up their ratings in the popularity contest. It is common for both sides to focus on yeshiva students who, by Israeli law, are allowed to postpone their draft dates in order to extend their studies. Many believe that when this arrangement was agreed upon, in the beginning days of the state, there were far fewer yeshiva students, and that the number of exemptions has grown over the years to an unacceptable level, and this may very well be true. But the fact that is generally overlooked is that in other, more secular segments of the population, the practice of avoiding the draft through other means of manipulation has also risen greatly since the founding of the state.
While the religious community is shamed for allegedly avoiding the draft by postponing it in order to extend Torah studies, other members of the religious community have a reputation for being highly motivated volunteers for the most elite units, and many go on to become commissioned officers. But, aside from the two major focuses of this discussion (the religious Yeshiva students and the secular community), there are others who merit notice as well.
Non-Jewish Arab citizens of Israel also enlist by law to serve their country. Soldiers from the Druze, Charcsi and Bedouin communities proudly wear IDF uniforms and bravely fight to protect the people and land of Israel. But on the other side, many other non-Jewish Israelis are in fact exempt from serving, and thereby from sharing the burden of protecting the home country that affords them so many privileges, a high standard of living and freedoms that they would never dream of anywhere else in the Middle East. They, too, should share the responsibility of protecting this land from Shiite Islamic fundamentalists in Lebanon and Iran, who would treat them (the Sunni Muslims of Israel) no better than they would treat the Jews, if they succeeded in overrunning this country.
The Jews of the diaspora also have a stake in the homeland of the Jewish people. It is not a responsibility only for Jews who happened to be born in the land. Israel is the homeland and holy land for the entire Jewish people, and the center of our nation. Protecting this land and people is an obligation for every Jew, no matter where he or she happens to live. Every year, there are a handful of young people in the diaspora who follow their inner calling and come to Israel to serve in the Machal volunteer program in the IDF but this should become a more common practice.
The people of Israel should look down on those who avoid taking their share of the mutual responsibility. Of course, sanctions should be put into place to punish those who evade the draft, in the common interest of the people. Special subsidies, tuition and land grants should be made available only to those who participate.
Until G-d brings the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Bible – when a Lion and a Lamb graze together and we can beat our guns and planes into plowshares, we will need to continue to wear uniforms and fight battles against those who wish us dead. As long as that is the case, every able body (regardless of race, religion or geographical location) in Israel should have to give his share.