You might remember the bitter Israeli joke I used in a previous post about Haredi Jews’ complete lack of any desire in participating in their own nation’s future. It goes something like this. A third of the country works, a third fights in the military, and a third pays all the taxes; unfortunately it’s all the same third. Things have progressed somewhat since this joke was made, and there are a lot fewer religious fundamentalists shirking their military duties rather than claiming their religious exemption similar to the American "conscientious objector" clause, and staying home on a state stipend, reading the Torah for the hundredth time. Unfortunately this means that there are a lot of fundamentalists in the IDF and that doesn’t bode well for the Israeli women who are very, very quickly rising through the ranks and thriving in the military’s primarily secular structure. The new Haredi recruits seem determined to maintain separation of genders at all costs…
If the pressure to avoid sin in the military has always been an onus on women, more recently it’s transferred to men. Like Boianjiu’s recruits, many religious men are taught that they must steer clear of certain dangers, such as being touched by a woman, hearing a woman sing, and looking at women. As more women advance into positions of power, or just generally spread out among various units, these actions are harder and harder for men to avoid.
Perhaps one of the most ridiculous manifestations of this is a growing refusal to allow a female instructor to correct a man’s posture during combat training. Not hearing women sing or simply avoiding the sight of a woman can be excused as quirks, utterly asinine quirks that take several phrases in the Torah to unwarranted and unthinking extremes, but quirks nonetheless. But when these recruits refuse to learn how to handle their weapons or assume a proper stance during a live ammo exercise because a woman is in charge of their training, we’re venturing into that rare category of lunacy so extreme that it’s dangerous to the lunatic and everyone around him. It’s almost better if they just kept mooching off the government and shirked their responsibilities just like they did before because now, instead of trying to live in a post-1600 AD world, they’re trying to make the IDF bow to their whims regardless of what it does to combat readiness.
Not only are the Haredis a force for social unrest in Israel, and not only do they refuse to work in a knowledge-based economy the country has spent many billions trying to create, they’re now trying to turn their nation’s military into one of their yeshivas but with uniforms and guns. Can we consider this example of religious fundamentalism going too far again and again to learn a few glaring lessons as to why we shouldn’t be praising religious extremists as devoted pillars of their communities, and why we can’t allow them to have free reign in politics and modern society? For the last 60 plus years, Israel clothed, fed, sheltered, and defended its fundamentalists, letting them do as they wished and granting them every exception and stipend they demanded. What did the state get in return? Hardcore religious fanatics who will ridicule and shun the society that enabled their cushy existence, demanding ever more money, power, and concessions. And the only word I can possibly think of to describe shameful behavior like that is parasitic.