Prof. Gideon Aran: Commanders of the Haredi Battalion

Commanders of the Haredi battalion find it difficult to reconcile the natural tendency to cultivate fighters’ pride in their unit with the requirement to admit their inferiority relative to full-time yeshiva scholars.

Written By Prof. Gideon Aran

Gideon Aran

Gideon Aran

Moreover, the tendency to cover up the embarrassing fact that the battalion is composed entirely of yeshiva drop-outs clashes with the explicit statement they are required to make that had they not been drafted they would not have continued their Torah education. While publicly undertaking not to entice the gifted and the motivated away from the Torah study, in practice there is a tendency to attract such students for army service in order to raise the prestige of the battalion and to ensure its high religious and military standards.

In the past military service symbolized for Haredim the essence of all that is negative in the Zionist way. Not only because military service usually entails the wasting of time that ought to be devoted to Torah study and the nonobservance of commandments, but also because army life reflects sin and heresy: faith in man, in society, in the nation, in material things and in physical strength, instead of faith in God.

Moreover, the experience of the Orthodox in Israel has already taught them well that there is no means more effective than the army in causing religious Jews to abandon their faith and their Torah ways. On the other hand, the army has proved itself a particularly effective agent of moratorium, as even the secular establishment has come to value. Military service absorbs youthful energies and provides an outlet for them, which serves the system.

The army engages youths during the most energetic, libidinal and rebellious years of their lives, while calming and taming them. Just as, among the secular, military service may neutralize opposition to nationalist institutions or bourgeois culture, so too, it may preempt, perhaps more effectively, the oppressive heritage of the Ultra-Orthodox establishment.

Taken from “Body, Violence and Fundamentalism: The Case of Jewish Ultra-Orthodoxy” By Gideon Aran.

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