They Are Very Afraid

The religous Zionist segment of Israeli society is disproportinately represented in the officer’s corps in the IDF. We comprise approximately 12% of Israeli society, but 35% of the officers in the IDF wear the knitted kippa (skullcap).

This disproportion is very frightening to some secular Israelis, especially in academia - so much so that it has been studied. Israel HaYom has an interesting article about this topic, which is essentially a book review of a collection of essays.

The essays are written from various viewpoints. I find it ironic that those who are most frightened of the fact that so many national religious young men are now officers are mistaken about the viewpoints held by these officers. They assume, wrongly, that those national religious soldiers hold views that are, for want of a better term “extremely right wing” concerning future borders of Israel, and that these viewpoints will seriously affect how they act in the army.

Perhaps it is all relative, but from my experience I see that the men in the national religious camp that are extremely right wing either do not serve at all, or serve for a very short time, and are most certainly not the ones who go on to become officers. They usually sit and learn in yeshiva, and do the minimum of army required by the hesder program (14 months, versus the committment to three full years for officers).

The religious men who do go on to become officers are committed to the army for the best of reasons, and with the guidance of their rabbis serve to the best of their ability while following the halacha. For the most part their motivation for being in the army in general and their desire to be officers in particular comes from an overarching ideal – that of serving Klal Yisrael and protecting their fellow Jews. This ideal then makes it easier for them to perhaps follow a more lenient interpretation on some halachic issues where others would take a more stricter view.

Therefore the fear by many in the secular camp in Israel about the national religious in the army is misplaced and completely blown out of proportion. It comes from not understanding the nuances of a different sector of the country.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. shilohmuse
    Feb 11, 2013 @ 12:10:10

    Interesting point about the “more extreme” or “noar hagvahot” kids, but they don’t do hesder usually.
    ps kippot are crocheted, not knitted. Hebrew has one word for both crafts, but we don’t.

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