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One of the big topics these days is the new enlistment law that may or may not pass. At some point. Yes, I am utterly disillusioned by the democratic process by now.

Latest: Ya’alon and Plesner to draw up new IDF enlistment law ‘within two days’ (Ha’aretz, July 9, 2012)

Plesner wants his suggestions – such as the guideline that 80 percent of draft-age ultra-Orthodox men should be performing military or national service by 2016 – to become law without any significant changes along the way, but the coalition is considering softening his proposals.

This is where part of the political struggle in part will take place. (I am reminded of the words of fictional Chief of Staff Leo McGerry (yes, the West Wing) who said “There are two things which you should never let people see how you make: laws and sausages”) It’s gonna get ugly. Each party has it’s pet peeve with the current situation and will try and change it with the new law. or simply derail the whole process (That would be the Haredi parties).

This is just a minor thing, but take for example Gila Gamliel (Likud) who is quoted for saying that she wants the new law to “include mandatory conscription of all women.” Beyond the pleonasm (a conscription is by nature ”mandatory” — but I bet she was interviewed in Hebrew so I will not digress here) the draft of WOMEN is hardly the main issue here.

Main issue is finding a way to expand ‘service’ to include the IDF as well as national service to allow Arab Israelis and Haredi Israelis to contribute to the State as well as enable Secular Jewish Israelis to meet people from other groups.

 

In my opinion, the years of service could — in the best of worlds and that is what we should aim for — function as the proverbial melting pot. The Israeli educational system is already so segregated (yes, I use that word with all its connotations) that most people never meet Israelis from other groups. This is bad for social integration and very bad for a place like Israel with such a diverse population. IN the army, some are then given the opportunity to put a face on “the other Israelis”. I seriously believe that this is as vital for our national survival as the actual military training. That is why service must include all Israelis.

And yes, flexibility is important to allow for Torah-study, but  – and I say this as an observant Jew – we have to get our priorities in order. Yesterday religious Jews observed the fast of 17th Tammuz. It’s a long day to go without food or drink (and I promise you – it is even worse because you know you will have to do it again in 3 weeks on Tisha B’Av and for even longer). But it is good for thinking. The point fo the fast is that spiritual work (in the case of this fast: Repentance) is not enough. It must be accompanied by physical actions. So too protecting the State: Praying is paramount, but Judaism says “you gotta go do something”. In this case: Go serve your country by deeds and not words alone. Especially because by serving you say “Yes, I too am an Israeli.” Maybe that is the crux of this heated debate, drawing thousands to the streets. We are suddenly faced with the very scary reality that a good part of our fellow Israelis actually don’t want to be Israelis the way we are. That’s a real issue and should be taken seriously. But with the current debate climate, I doubt any of our politicians has the leadership skills it takes to facilitate that conversation. Perhaps we should start it ourselves…

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