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Opinion | Dear Parents of Israeli Soldiers, Don't Sacrifice Your Children on the Altar of Messianism
By Iris Leal
Published September 3, 2023
IDF soldiers.Credit: Itay Ron
Why does an exemption for the ultra-Orthodox on the basis of the belief that Torah studies protect the people of Israel evoke rage and contempt,
but sending our sons to sacrifice their lives for the last five decades
on the altar of the notion of a divine promise –
a belief that’s equally foreign to those protesting women –
is perceived as reasonable and logical?
An officer and three soldiers were wounded last week by an explosive device while guarding worshippers at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. If you think you’ve been hearing about this location with growing frequency in recent years, you’re not mistaken. Over the last decade, the number of organized visits to the site has doubled, as has the volume of visitors.
Lawmaker Zvi Sukkot, a target of Shin Bet security service investigations, elicited much rage after he tweeted, “One cannot blink for a moment when facing terror” – while someone else’s children were being evacuated to the hospital. “Our thanks go to [Israel Defense Forces] commanders and soldiers for guarding the [tomb’s] entrance even when confronted with erupting terror. Terror will not win, thanks to the righteous Joseph!”
These few words contain so many elements that are foreign to the worldview of many parents whose children have been hurt while defending the delusions of Sukkot and his friends. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. For too long, military protection of sites such as Joseph’s Tomb or the settlers in Hebron, or other “holy” sites, has been accepted by the majority as a “necessary evil.”
The radiant, smug face of Sukkot on the night of the incident and the singing of “May your village burn” on the bus of worshippers heading to the tomb attest to the fact that this is an enterprise that blends a messianic vision, burning hatred, sadistic joy and a mystical belief of people visiting the tombs of tzadikim, or righteous men, and the power of prayer at those sites. Just like Sukkot promised, the righteous Joseph will protect worshippers.
I’m not criticizing or mocking the custom of visiting these tombs. It’s the right of anyone who derives consolation and hope from such visits, which aid some people in contending with hardship in their lives, as long as the tombs are not situated in the heart of Palestinian towns, and their protection does not risk the security of soldiers.
Tzvi Sukkot in the Knesset.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Ahead of the Knesset’s winter session, many mothers have announced that they won’t let their children serve in the army if the new draft law is passed, with yeshiva students obtaining a blanket exemption. They are demanding equality in bearing the burden of service. They don’t share the rabbis’ belief that studying Torah protects the country, and that when people are required to make such a heavy sacrifice, with the story of Isaac’s binding repeating itself in various versions on a daily basis, one cannot risk the most precious thing without the power of faith in Abraham.
That’s all good and well. But what about the faith of Sukkot, Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben-Gvir and all the rest, who are convinced that ruling over all our forefathers’ domain is a reasonable basis for security, just like a true economic policy should be based on a biblical phrase conditioning favorable results on following God’s injunctions? Do these mothers share their beliefs? Why does an exemption for the ultra-Orthodox on the basis of the belief that Torah studies protect the people of Israel evoke rage and contempt, but sending our sons to sacrifice their lives for the last five decades on the altar of the notion of a divine promise – a belief that’s equally foreign to those protesting women – is perceived as reasonable and logical?
Israeli military reservists hold flags as they block the main highway from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv as they demonstrate against proposed judicial reforms by Israel's new right-wing government in Shoresh near Jerusalem last month.Credit: AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS
The debate over military service began because of the constitutional overhaul. Reserve soldiers are saying that the basic contract between them and the state has been violated, and that as long as the threat of this legislation is not removed, they will refuse to volunteer. On this backdrop, the draft bill is also evoking fierce opposition among cabinet members and voters. But if the status quo is broken, why can’t we also start a discussion about serving in the occupied territories?
Every week, you can see the violence of settlers tormenting and humiliating Palestinians, with soldiers standing by and letting this happen. Are you, dear parents, willing to let your children serve such a vision? Perhaps it’s better for them not to risk their lives just because Sukkot was stricken with a desire to pray and torment? If we open everything up for review, it’s worth looking at the details of this old contract and demanding that people at least be allowed to choose whether they wish to kill and be killed in the service of the settlers.
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