NPR on ultra-Orthodox in the IDF: left out important point

I know this story highlights what might seem even more strange to non-Jews than it does to Jews: ultra-Orthodox Israelis who choose to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (I’ll post a link to the transcript later today). Some of the problems addressed: they are viewed as secular by their friends and family, they are concerned for the disgrace that their family members feel over their entrance into the IDF, they feel unable to go home, to visit with their own or be seen with them. There is only one unit, Nahal Haredi, for the haredi and even then, NPR says that the unit (1000 troops) is called only 1/3 haredi because of the differences in how strictly the individuals adhere to Orthodoxy.

The NPR segment identifies the following reasons why the ultra-Orthodox want the exemption from service: so they can study, so they can make money, so they can avoid danger and because, according to NPR, they see military service as “immoral.”

While all those goals are served by not serving, there is another reason why the ultra-Orthodox don’t serve that wasn’t mentioned: the ultra-Orthodox don’t believe that the state of Israel should exist before the coming of the Messiah. And so they won’t defend it.

Remember the Jews who went to the Iranian Holocaust conference? Some of them were said to be affiliated with Neturei Karta. These are individuals who rely on interpretations of Jewish law and texts that they believe dictate that Israel not exist.

While this point might seem more technical than you think NPR needs to or needed to get, there are many Orthodox within Judaism, globally, and yet the typical American has never met a Jew of any flavor – just look at the numbers. And although I’ve grown up and continue live in and around everyone including Jews, if you’ve never met a Jew and only know Jews from the media, well…NPR would have done well to identify this state of Israel-related reason for why the haredi don’t usually serve in the IDF.

If you want to get an excellent idea of how this issue applies practically, A Mother in Israel is a fantastic blog – well-written, by a mom of five (is it five?! yes, not four, but not six I think) who made aliyah many years ago but actually grew up part of her life in the Midwest. I’ve exchanged numerous emails with her and other personal information and assure you that if you want a real flavor of life after moving permanently to Israel, as a modern Orthodox Jew (though I don’t know if she actually would refer to herself that way but I think that’s pretty much how we’d classify her here – feel free to comment on that Mother in Israel), hers is a good one to read.

Here are posts that examine the choices for a high school boy in Israel who is raised Orthodox, though not ultra-Orthodox. I’ve also emailed this post to Mother in Israel with the hope that she’ll chime in.

9 thoughts on “NPR on ultra-Orthodox in the IDF: left out important point

  1. Oh – on your last comment (assuming all Anons are the same), well – yes, I see what you’re saying but what I mean is that they really believe what they believe – so in that sense, they aren’t misled. You and I think their support for their interpretation is fakhacht but they don’t – do you know what I mean? That we think they are crazy doesn’t make them crazy in their own estimation – that’s all I mean – likewise, that we believe that they are misled doesn’t make them see themselves that way and never the less follow that path. They think they are right. And then to call them misled – that’s our judgement. Do you know what I mean?

  2. Ok – yes – thank you for taking the time to point that out – I see what you are saying – I hate this one-dimensional medium sometimes – very frustrating when I’m thinking in my head what I think I’m writing and it just doesn’t come out that way. Thank you.Yes – what you say in the end – that is exactly what I really wish the US media did more often – they lump Jews together all the time and then when they don’t they make huge generalizations about chunks of us. Of course, this isn’t limited to Jews or religious folks of any type – it’s done whenever there is categorizing. Another topic for another day. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Finally Jill- “Additionally, they don’t think that they are misled.” How many mislead people do you know that will openly say, “we have been mislead?” Any Jewish person with any sense would not attend a Holocaust deniers conference organized by a lunatic dictator who desires Israel’s utter destruction unless of course they were, well…you get the point.

  4. “the ultra-Orthodox don’t believe that the state of Israel should exist before the coming of the Messiah. And so they won’t defend it.” The link may be eye-opening and informative but the above was a direct quote from your post.”if you’ve never met a Jew and only know Jews from the media, well…NPR would have done well to identify this state of Israel-related reason for why the haredi don’t usually serve in the IDF.”. I guess you were getting at the fact that NPR should have expressed that there are many types of Jews (reform, ortho), and within THOSE types, there are various sub-sects, and each one does not necessarily maintain the views of the other, and that while some sects may believe that IDF service is immoral, the vast majority of others do not. Right? I think? I may be wrong in interpreting your comments that way, but possibly stating the above may have made them less vague.

  5. Now just a second – I absolutely did not write about “all Israeli ultra-orthodox.” That’s very unfair – because I specifically link to where it’s stated that they’re a small number. I’ve also specifically written that the typical American hasn’t even ever met a Jew, let alone an ultra-Orthodox Jew, another way of indicating just how small a number we’re talking about. So don’t go getting all righteous, hm?Additionally, they don’t think that they are misled. My own synagogue was founded by Hungarian Jews – most likely family members of some of the Hungarian Jews who started the movements most closely associated with the “misled” you talk about.So – I’ve openly indicated that I’m here in the U.S. and have this opinion about what I heard and I want to hear other opinions. Don’t go all knowitall on the knowitall, okay? This is a place for sharing and debating – offering information based on your knowledge, with whatever other info you can provide for people to check out as sources themselves.For example – maybe you have some good links for support of your position that you can share?Finally, where’s this “you want NPR to make ALL Jews…look bad” think come from? I don’t see that at all – unless you just have a hatred for people talking about the group that makes up the fanatical end of Orthodoxy. You and I can agree on where they exist on the spectrum, but I don’t hold hate or contempt for them the way you seem to.Please – explain a bit more, would you?

  6. The point is flawed because you wrongly stereotyped all Israeli ultra-orthodox Jews by basically grouping them with the beliefs of NKs. If you were listening to the uproar from the religious community after the Holocaust conference fiasco, you’d recall that it was quite deafening. They are a small group of mislead fanatics that were largely miscommunicated by the mainstream (and yes, Ultra) orthodox. Also, what is truly perplexing about your post is why would you want NPR to make ALL Jews (hey, no one knows who we are so we must all be in one bag, right?) look bad?

  7. Oh – wait – my point is flawed? How can that be! 🙂 I don’t think the point is flawed – they just left it out – but did you actually mean that – the point is in fact flawed, or that it is a flaw in their report?

  8. That’s a fair approach. You’re probably right that it’s too insignificant a number and could be overblown. I confess that whenever I hear U.S. produced stories about any topic that I know something about, I don’t like it when something I know about the topic is omitted. Knowitall last word syndrome at it’s worst. :)Thanks for commenting.

  9. Jill- only a very small minority believes that which the Neturai Karta believe which may, in part, account for NPR’s omission.As a fellow Jew though, I am glad that NPR did not include your flawed point, as it would only result in skewed perceptions of the rest of practicing (Haredim and non-Haredim alike) Jews and worse, bring on a large dose of Chillul Hashem.

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