Former Minister of Education from the Yesh Atid party, Rabbi Shai Piron, addresses the crisis surrounding the possible enforcement of the Conscription Law, stating that it will indeed happen, and the protest will reach a point where the path back from it will be nearly impossible.
In a lengthy post published on his Facebook page, Rabbi Piron addressed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and called upon him to rescue the ultra-Orthodox community from the grip of their leadership.
Among other things, Rabbi Piron wrote, "The Conscription Law that is about to unfold before us is going to be the watershed moment of Israel in 2023. It will be the moment when the protest bursts its boundaries: the children going off to battle are the sons and daughters of mothers and fathers who vote for all parties. It will be the mother of all protests, and it will reach even the regular army. If the Conscription Law passes, it will create a deep divide between the entire citizens of Israel and the ultra-Orthodox society. It will have many ramifications. The duty falls upon the Prime Minister to rescue the ultra-Orthodox from their leaders and prevent them from leading to an irreparable rupture."
Rabbi Piron outlined several principles and identifies the responsible factors for the ultra-Orthodox leadership's actions to prevent the conscription of the ultra-Orthodox public: "The goal of the ultra-Orthodox leadership is evasion. The ultra-Orthodox political leadership does not speak the truth: it does not seek an exemption solely for Torah scholars, but rather an exemption for anyone born into an ultra-Orthodox family, regardless of their academic abilities, their potential as future Torah scholars, or their suitability as educators. The immoral demand to exempt everyone is an act that goes against Jewish values."
Rabbi Piron argues that "the concept of directing all men to study Torah full-time is a new invention. The notion that Judaism sees the destiny of every man as studying Torah all day throughout his life, while his wife supports the family to the best of her ability, alongside substantial financial support from the state – is not rooted in Jewish thought and law. Indeed, after the Holocaust, the great leaders of Israel were required to rebuild the world of Torah that had been devastated. Turning the 'emergency model' into a way of life does not align with the individual's obligations to oneself, to others, and to the state."
Furthermore, he clarified that "the argument that everyone can sit for ten hours in the study hall and engage in discussions on the identities of Abaye and Rava can only persuade someone who has never studied in a yeshiva. The Haredi leaders are concerned about potential social unrest that could bring down the walls. They are doing everything in their power to preserve their distinctiveness. Therefore, the issue is not an exemption from military service – but rather a disconnection of any ideological and social connection between the Haredi community and the state."
Regarding the culprits of the current crisis, Rabbi Piron wrote: "Blaming the entire conscription crisis on the shoulders of the Haredi community is a mistake. A new, comprehensive national plan is required. There needs to be a transition from conscription to the IDF to a universal service obligation imposed on all Israeli citizens. The Arab leadership is also at fault, perhaps even more so. They oppose civilian service with baseless claims of recognition of the state. Only they know how many acts of violence could have been prevented if young people without direction had been engaged in meaningful service, if they had become community police officers, youth guides in schools, or paramedics in Magen David Adom. The history of Israel's Arab citizens would have looked different if their leaders had cared for the citizens."
"We are also to blame," Rabbi Piron emphasized. "We too exempted all of Israel's Arab citizens from any service obligation, as if they are not citizens of the state. The IDF leadership is also suffering from a kind of blindness. It's no longer a secret: the number of recruits to the IDF stands at less than 50% of the conscription age cohort. Additionally, technological changes are affecting the required size of the forces. Those who know the system deeply also recognize changes in motivation. Many soldiers don't fulfill their skills; they serve in meaningless roles, creating a culture of stagnation. Courageous leaders are needed who are willing to acknowledge the simple fact: everyone needs to serve, not everyone has to enlist in the IDF. The IDF cannot be the sole gateway to the world of service."
What is the solution? Rabbi Piron talks about a formula where "70% serve on the 80th anniversary of the State of Israel. The principles for a new, inclusive, and comprehensive service framework have already been formulated by the 'Pnima' movement, and they include, among other things: the establishment of a National Service Authority (according to the former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi's proposal) to which all Israeli citizens, both men and women, will arrive; each citizen's choice of one of three frameworks – the IDF (as their first choice option), Internal Security and Rescue, Welfare and Education – all of which will be based on existing organizations such as Magen David Adom, United Hatzalah, ZAKA, HaShomer HaChadash, and Yad Sarah, and all of them will be open to Jews, Arabs, secular, and religious individuals."
Another step is "establishing a track for excellence and setting criteria for exemption from the IDF, while setting limits for Torah scholars, outstanding scientists, exceptional athletes, and distinguished artists; setting a target of five years for the implementation of this mandatory service program. Here is a possible goal: in the celebrations of the 80th year of the country, 70% of the relevant age cohort will perform meaningful service. This is a practical goal that will mend Israeli society, strengthen the people's army, and ensure national security."
In his concluding words, Rabbi Piron addressed Netanyahu: "Mr. Prime Minister – your advisers must present to you the magnitude of the crisis. You must realize that the storm will be twice as strong, the rift will be severe and destructive. Call upon them, Deri, Gafni, and Goldknopf, explain to them that if they care about the country's Judaism – they should not enact this law in this form. Explain to them that their law will stir anger and hatred, that it will harm the connection of many young people to Judaism. Tell them that it's your duty to preserve a Jewish and democratic Israeli society. Explain to them that we cannot continue like this. Prime Minister, turn to the court, clarify that within a year a new and comprehensive service plan will be presented, setting a practical but ambitious goal: 70% by the 80th year. This is the national litmus test. Please, show leadership."