Monday, August 5, 2013

Novel Solution to Coalition's Legal Problems with Criminal Sanctions for Yeshiva "Draft Dodgers"

Here's a problem. One terrible provision of the current Israeli government's plan for drafting a portion of chareidim into the IDF or national service is the criminal sanctions for those who do to serve in order to stay in yeshiva. This provision is a train wreck waiting to happen and also prevents any potential consensual solution because no one our side could ever support a law which includes that provision.
I've heard Rabbi Lipman say that he also does not want this provision but that the government's legal advisers say they have no choice but to include it because it would be illegal to exclude just one group subject to the draft from criminal sanctions (the chareidim) while the other group (all non-chareidim) would remain subject to criminal penalties.

I have a possible solution. This idea, however, would only work as part of a comprehensive and consensual solution reached between the government and Torah leadership. I have another idea regarding a framework which would facilitate such a consensual resolution by both sides which is the subject of an article I wrote, which is currently in the submission process for publication.

This idea to address the criminal sanctions issue, which could avoid a scenario in which boys could be arrested for learning Torah, is the following: For those bochurim who are not completely exempt (part of the 1,800), who are not serving in a chareidi IDF unit, and who will not elect for a national service option outside of the beis medrash, change the national service rules such that religious studies will be eligible as a form of service in fulfillment of the national service option!

Indeed, under the current law as drafted, any bochur who is drafted already has the national service option if he does not want to join the IDF.

We know that Torah study confers infinite benefit not only on those who study it but on the whole Jewish people as well, so it fits. Certainly there are likely to be a number of initial objections from all sides, like:

(i) How is this different from the 1,800 exemptions which are also in recognition of the value of Torah study?; (ii) some purists/kano'im may still prefer criminal sanctions to Torah study "l'sheim sherut l'umi" rather than the same Torah study where the person did not write on a form that he was studying Torah to fulfill his sherut l'umi requirements; (iii) although they could be revised, the current national service rules are presumably currently drafted not to include Torah study as a service option; and (iv) what's to stop chilonim from trying to use this redefined form of national service to avoid IDF service as well?

Again, this idea is meant as part of an arsenal of ideas and proposals to give all parties the flexibility to come up with a plan that everyone can eventually agree to. And in that context, the parties can come up with ways to address/work-around potential objections to the idea, like the following:

(i) It is true that the sherut l'umi Torah study option would not really be so different in practice from the 1,800 exemptions. The difference would mostly exist on paper, but if it, in combination with a comprehensive resolution, would allow for a larger solution k'ein that which Rav Shteinman and others were working on 10 years ago, most can live with the very small difference between the full exemption and the Torah-study-as-national-service option.

(ii) Most people will agree to fill out paperwork to "get credit" for their Torah studies to fulfill their national service requirement. It's not so different from the hundreds of yeshivos which already give actual college credit for yeshiva study. And for those that won't, in the context of a consensual agreement with the support of the Torah leaders in Eretz Yisroel, there will be much less sympathy or hullabaloo from anyone if a small number of people cause themselves to get arrested for not studying Torah in the same yeshiva as before l'sheim sherut l'umi.

(iii) Just redraft the national service rules to permit people to fulfill the requirement through religious studies generally or Torah study specifically.

(iv) And what would be so bad if chilonim began signing up for yeshiva or seminary in order to avoid the IDF service? It would be a fantastic opportunity for the kiruv world! And to the extent anyone decides to do so at a non-orthodox seminary of some sort, it will (a) be their own choice so not a lifnei iver/mesayeya l'dvar aveira issue and (b) be an added incentive for catch-more-flies-with-honey-than-with-vinegar kiruv work.

Whether this specific idea is ultimately adopted as park of a wider framework of a consensual resolution to this multilateral and very painful conflict is not necessarily important. The main thing is that I think there are ways around even the most intractable aspects of the current conundrum (the constitutional objections to not having criminal sanctions) if and when the parties are ready to work out a long-term solution which addresses the biggest concerns on both sides.

I'd be curious if anyone out there knows of any reason why this idea wouldn't work as part of a larger toolbox such that there is no work-around to the problem. And again, I'm sure there are other objections a variety of parties may have but I'm specifically talking about ones without some sort of possible work-around as part of a comprehensive and consensual solution.


Josef said...

Nice idea. Keep dreaming. The gov't and Lapid and Lipman want yeshiva bochrim out of the BM. They will never agree to your proposal which once again legalizes Torah learning as an exemption from the army/national service.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

I disagree. If you recall, the original coalition agreement was for financial penalties for those who dodged the draft, not criminal sanctions. That provision was only added after the Peri committee where (presumably) the legal issue caused that to be put in later on. This was not always part of the proposal.

Josef said...

Whether financial or criminal, the def., clear, openly stated goal of Lapid and Lipman has always been to get charedim to change and as they put it 'be part of normative Israeli society' and with theit share the burden slogan, they have never viewed Torah learning as service Lipman said openly he wanted less than 400 to get an exemption and the 1800 was Naftali Benett's idea if you look back at the news from March you will see that

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Sorry, you're right. We should just throw in the towel and get a divorce.

Josef said...

I said, nice idea. But it's a dream. The Lapid side will never agree to this particular idea. Like you have said, I wish there was someone who could bring the sides together. Maybe someone like Rav Weinberger could. If he went to EY, went to see Rav Grossman, and then together met with Rav Shteinman and Lapid maybe he could have an impact.

Josef said...

I'm sorry to take the wind out of your sails. You have clearly spent a lot of time thinking and writing about this. You care about Klal Yisrael and hate machlokes, as do I.

But I don't think anything really practical comes out from all of this.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

No need to worry. You haven't taken the wind out of my sails.

But I do believe you're wrong in your assessment. I'm away of the various people's positions at various points but you're making a mistake to think that everyone is an idealogue who just wants to see boys out of the beis medrash.

To better understand the situation and see a way out of if, you have to lift up your perspective so you're not so mired in the details that you don't see what's happening. Almost nothing in the politcal arena is written in stone and many things that various poeple have said, proposed, or advocated are not necessary permenant positions. And many positions and statements on all sides of the issue are actually the result of people "acting out" becaue of frustration, feeling threatened, and attaced.

For some additional perspective on that, listen to what Rav Weinberger says in this shiur:

Josef said...

Like I said, maybe Rav Weinberger can act on what he has said in that shiur.

You and I or any other blog commentor don't have any influence really and it's not so productive.

Josef said...

A little mussar primarily to myself. Elul is almost here. Let's stop following and commenting on facebook, twitter, being obsessed with posting pictures of our family vacations, etc. and any other thoughts on the web which in the big picture are just not really important or a good use of our time. Let's learn more Torah and spend less time on the web.

Kesiva VaChasima Tova to all.

yaak said...


I applaud your efforts, but I'm afraid I share Josef's pessimism here. Lapid and company have entrenched themselves into the idea of getting everyone (besides the 1800) away from Torah learning.

That said, if you can pull it off and get them to agree to this, you should receive a Nobel Peace Prize.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Appreciate the thoughts. And I am accepting nominations.

But seriously, I think this is only going to get progressively worse until there is some sort of framework for actual dialogue. And once that starts happening, I think everyone involved will have to get very creative to come up with solutions everyone can live with that will address each side's legitimate concerns.

I do believe that any intrangency on the part of the coalition on this issue is ultimately a type of "acting out" that results from frustration, fear and a feeling of vulnerability. The way forward has to involve both sides talking to each other and listening to each other.

I believe that if some path can come about that's condusive to a real conversation, that people can come up with a solution. My idea is just a potential part of it that puts forward a feasible way to solve one part of the issue as part of a more comprehensive agreement.

Akiva said...

There's a variety of social trends going on here. First, what's the driver for this whole business? While our conspiracy minded friends above would love to just scream "they're out to get us, destroy Torah and drag us out of the beis medrash", that's NOT what started this drive.

The simple fact is charedi demographics, kein yirbu, are causing a massive increasing socio-economic impact and army manpower impact. (Example - 55% of first graders in Jerusalem are charedi.) Will the army and society be able to function when 1 in 3 exempts from the army, and that same 1 in 3 is receiving government funded learning benefits + government funded poverty benefits? Will the Israeli economy / companies / industry be able to operate when 1 in 3 bow out or don't have the basic skills to be employed at the level the industries and economy requires?

Let me put it an easier way to understand for those in the US: How's the local ultra-orthodox school system doing? How many attendees families are paying full tuition? Or even 75% Why aren't they? At what point are not enough students paying enough tuition for the school to fail? (This is not hypothetical, in the past 5 years, 4 schools went bankrupt in Lakewood, 1 in Toronto, 2 in Montreal, etc etc etc.)

Now indeed, in the midst of trying to make social changes to move the trend enough to SURVIVE without the need for daily miracles (we're somewhat mandated not to expect daily miracles), a number of nasty secularists are taking the opportunity to do hurtful things to the religious sector - and in many cases ultimately making the goals to be reached harder. But Israeli charedi society is used to not giving an inch - and has not cooperated to make any systemic adjustments.

So while DixieYid's idea is inventive, it misses the goal of the whole drive on the government's side - which is to increase labor participation and push it up to a higher-level-job point and set the pattern to fulfill future army manpower requirements - which is literally a matter of life and death in Israel.

Of course, the secularists don't want to give up their army indoctrination programs, or their zionist education programs in school either - the idiots.

The simple point is, having the WHOLE community learning is no longer viable given the successful growth blessings, the economics of the situation and the dangerous neighborhood. To survive and not be poverty ridden, we must get up to a 60-70% participation rate.

Not assimilation (G-d forbid), not indoctrination, not even mixing. Just participation.

Akiva said...

The Israeli Central Statistics reports that of the 182,000 students entering the school system from 2013-2019, forty thousand (40,000) will be from the Arab sector and 63,000 from the chareidi sector.

The CBS reports that in 2019 only 40.7% of the nation’s students will be enrolled in a non-religious public school while 26.2% will be in an Arab sector school, 18.8% in a chareidi school and 14.3% in a religious public school (this may also be charedi - the Chabad schools are religious public schools, but are funded through the public system with required curriculum elements like Math and Science). In the coming six years, only 79,000 new students will enter the state public schools, compromising a mere 43.4% of all of the new students entering schools nationwide. The total number of students is expected to reach a record-breaking 1.744 million as compared to 1.565 million in 2012, an 11.7% increase.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Akiva, thank you so much for all of the statistical information. I agree 100% with the demographic/economic arguments.

Check my post again though for the context. It is a proposal for a specific prat of a larger resolution which would have to be hammered out by the parties to open the door for a way around the legal obstacles to the coalition's original idea of not having criminal sanctions for "draft dodging bochurim." Even in any consensual resolution by the main parties, there will still be some who will refuse to participate in any non-yeshiva program. The idea allows the parties to avoid the inevitable social war that would result from jailing guys for staying in yeshiva.

Shas and UTJ MKs said last Thursday they would be open drafting boys that aren't really learning yomam v'layla. If the parties ever came to an agreement to even draft 20 or 30% of chareidi boys turing 21 each year into chareidi units, that's something I could see the government possibly agreeing to. It, along with the other chareidi employment initiatives and ability for chareidim to work, would go a long way toward making progress on the long-term problems we both agree need to be addressed.