Excuse typos on this one please. I’m typing really fast before Shabbos and I still have to clean my house.
A follow up on my niece Eden Farber’s article on serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
She took down her article after being pressured by the bureaucrats to do so. It is still up on the Wayback Machine and will be as long as the Archive.org server remains online.
A short word on the IDF policy to not allow soldiers to publish negative commentary on Tzahal. At first glance it seems a rational policy. Employees of private companies would be fired for badmouthing the company that employs them. This is the old adage “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” The policy itself is not the problem. A company should have the right to fire its employee for any reason at all, even if they don’t like his nose. Everything should go by contract, and if the contract says you can be fired for having an ugly nose, then that should be enforceable. Practically, this clause is actually in most contracts in the form of “any party can terminate said agreement on X notice for any reason etc.”
The problem with the policy is first, IDF service is not a voluntary contract for young people. Eden would have been forced into it anyway in some form. So to prevent soldiers from saying anything they want about the machine that forces them in is unjust, but really the problem is that a private company would fire you and demand its money back. If the IDF stopped there that would be fine. Kick anyone who badmouths the army out of the army and demand back their stipends of what, 300NIS a month? Fine.
But the IDF does not do that. If she didn’t take it down she’d go to prison eventually, be blackballed against future employment etc.
Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. The point is rather the comments that I’ve seen in response to her article as well as in response to my reposting of it on Facebook. Most of them miss the point and display a clear bias towards army service and against market activity, which is not surprising.
Here are some 3 examples:
…Just remember that Israel needs you, both as a soldier and as a citizen, but I think you already understand that as well.
…Nice to read about a spoiled American idealist kid faced reality, grew up, and became a contributing citizen of the most important country in the world. The IDF isn’t there to help you feel good about yourself, that’s YOUR job, no matter what the task. The IDF is there so that every Jew can have the opportunity to do so in that country.
…She deserves respect from the community for volunteering to serve. But, she shouldn’t be so depressed, not everyone can be Moshe Dayan, and even he was not as much as he’s made out to be.
Here’s the problem with these comments. At the base, they build off the assumption that merely wearing a uniform and twiddling your thumbs is a holy endeavor. Because there’s this metaphysical “entity” called Tzahal, sort of like כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא, every Israelite has a share in the world to come, and just being part of it is like joining up with some spiritual core. I’ve said this before, but it is a form of worship of something other than God.
Therefore, no matter how useless one is, how abused, or even how destructive (take the case of Gilad Shalit who contributed nothing and lamely went into captivity in one of the most pathetic army stories I’ve ever heard – not blaming Shalit he was forced into it like everyone else) one is to Tzahal, it is still considered holy to wear that uniform.
Now, one of my על חטא’s that I klopped for this year is being too reactionary and caustic. I’m trying to soften my tone a bit here, so I’ll say I understand these sentiments. I grew up with them. They are not foreign to me. They are part of my past, and I get it. Defending the Jewish people (any people really, in the true sense of defensive protection) indeed is a holy endeavor because we are God’s people, and those motivated to join the IDF for this should not be faulted.
But here’s where the bias comes in. If defending the Jewish people is holy, then why aren’t army deserters who would rather work and make money in Israel praised for doing the same exact thing? Take Bar Refaeli for example. She is extremely productive. I like her a lot. (I’m a guy and she’s Bar Refaeli, OK?) The taxes she pays support how many IDF soldiers? And yet she is reviled for being a deserter. Many business leaders and successful Israeli Jews are also army deserters. Good for them. We should respect the heck out of them for being brave enough to say no. That they won’t simply “do their time” to be part of the “big picture”. I’d have less of a problem with respecting army service for the sake of army service if deserters who go into the private sector to make money were also given the respect they deserve.
Zionism connotes service to the State of Israel. The State of Israel is not some metaphysical spiritual yeshus that exists in heaven. It’s just a group of people who pass laws coupled with enforcers. Zionism should not be defined as service to the State of Israel. It should be defined as service to God, or service to one’s conception of some Jewish higher purpose as centered on the Land of Israel if you’re an atheist or don’t believe in religion. I’m religious, so I pick the first one.
I am anti Zionist because I do not serve the State of Israel. But according to my definition of Zionism, I am a Zionist because God has given me a personal religious obligation to live in Israel and to create value in Israel. I am fulfilling that obligation by living in biblical Israel and creating value here for myself and for others.
Are soldiers who twiddle their thumbs in the army fulfilling their religious obligation according to this? I would say no. Market value is very had to measure with a monopoly army, but it’s pretty obvious that a soldier doing nothing is simply consuming resources in Israel.
The Mitzva of יישוב ארץ ישראל, settling the Land of Israel, requires creating more value that one consumes, either measurable economic value in terms of a monetary amount or spiritual value in terms of enriching people’s lives (which in the end could be valued monetarily aggregating the salaries of Rabbis and other spiritual workers in the private sector), both are necessary. If you just have people leeching of the work of others that is not settling. Settling requires work. If everyone leeched, everybody starves and יישוב cannot be done.
Army deserters who are not on welfare fulfill this role more than soldiers who do nothing, or next to nothing.
Now imagine this the other way around. Private companies in Israel, everywhere really, are often reviled for whatever they do, sometimes justifiably but often for simply doing business legitimately. It’s always דן לכף חוב, guilty until proven innocent with the private sector. If someone from a private company like Teva or something were to write an article reviling Teva’s abusive practices against its employees, oh boy would there be hell to pay.
Nobody would come to Teva’s defense commenting on an Eden type article documenting the emotional abuse of Teva that:
…Just remember that Teva needs you as an employee and Israel needs Teva, but I think you already understand that as well.
…Nice to read about a spoiled American idealist kid faced reality, grew up, and became a contributing citizen of the most important country in the world. Teva isn’t there to help you feel good about yourself, that’s YOUR job, no matter what the task. Teva is there so that every Jew can have the opportunity to have cheap medicine.
…She deserves respect from the community for working at Teva. But, she shouldn’t be so depressed, not everyone can be Mark Thatcher (founder of Teva), and even he was not as much as he’s made out to be.
Etc. That would all be ludicrous. In fact, just the opposite. Jews left and right would be manhandling Teva and urging a bunch of people to be fired and big fines to be levied and compensation to be paid to the abused.
But with the IDF, no matter what the heck you’re doing, whether it’s damaging or nothing or barely anything, it’s always good because the IDF is holy.
Well what about Teva? Yes, they do bad things when they partner with the State. Not a perfect example. But how many lives has Teva saved? Wow, a lot. Who cares? Very few. Who considers Teva holy for fulfilling יישוב ארץ ישראל? Virtually nobody.
Statists like to quip, “Israel can’t survive without the IDF,” by which they mean a monopoly State-controlled IDF. Well, maybe, maybe not. It’s an empirical question. Several IDF’s privatized into different competing security companies sounds scary to many, but it is at least conceivable that it would operate much better than what we have now, which is a drain on everyone’s standard of living and death to many who commit suicide in the army.
(In fact, parenthetically, statists also quip that if Private Company X, say Teva again, would cease to exist, the market need would be filled by some other company to meet the need so there is no need for Teva specifically and it is not holy. But when libertarians say that if State Institution Y (say the IDF) would cease to exist, statists claim that everyone would die so therefore the IDF is holy, whereas libertarians say that the market need would be filled by private companies and therefore the IDF is not holy.)
But can the IDF survive without people working in the private sector? No, it cannot. That is not an empirical question. In order to survive in this planet and consume its resources, you first need to produce those resources. That is an a priori logical proposition. The IDF cannot surive without a private Israeli economy.
So, being that the IDF is absolutely dependent on the private sector, whereas Israel is only dubiously dependent on a public monopoly state controlled IDF, then by transitive property, Israeli companies are much holier than the IDF.
Therefore, army deserters who work in the private sector in the Biblical Land of Israel, deserve equal, if not MORE respect than IDF soldier with no obvious purpose in the army.