Thu, 8 July 2021
Mandatory army service plays an essential function within Israeli civic culture, absorbing and equalizing Ashkenazi, Mizraḥi (Middle Eastern), religious, secular, male, female, Ethiopian, Russian Jews and more. In the IDF, all of these identities step back and create room for a national Israeli identity to step forward.
Almost every Jewish community in Israel serves in the IDF, except one: the Ḥaredi (ultra-Orthodox) community. 70 years ago, Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, famously gave ḥaredi leaders an official exemption from compulsory national service, an exemption that persists to this day, along with much accompanying controversy. On this week's podcast, the ḥaredi leader Yehoshua Pfeffer, himself a rabbinic judge, asks whether that exemption is just. In conversation with Mosaic's editor Jonathan Silver, he explores the background behind the reluctance to serve, and brings us inside the debate currently unfolding within Israel's Orthodox communities about the fulfillment of civic obligation and moral duty.
Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.