Jan 14, 2010

Nahal Haredi soldiers and refusing orders

There is a lot of excitement right now about the new situation of Nahal Haredi soldiers doing reserve duty. They just started their first ever session of miluim. Much of the news media has written about it.

Kikar asked an interesting question in their article on the subject. They asked how this unit, with many of the soldiers being haredim, would deal with the "refuse orders" debate. If they would be commanded to dismantle settlements, would they do so or refuse?

One of the soldiers, someone described as being a Litvishe avreich from Bnei Brak (to digress for a moment, if they have already left kollel and joined the army and are even doing reserve duty why are they still being called "avreich"?) answered the question saying "Most of the miluimnikim would grow hair on their hands before they would refuse an order, and it doesn't make a difference if it is an order about settlements or about shabbos. Whoever comes here, to him the army is holy and we come here to give with all our hearts."

I can see a number of problems caused by this statement.
  1. This avreich who has joined the Nahal Haredi is saying that anybody, in the haredi community, who joins the army thinks its holy and wouldn't do anything against it. I can see that causing a storm. It is one thing to say the army is a necessary evil that has to be done so those who will not sit in learning can contribute their part and get on with their lives to go to school and get jobs... It's another thing to suddenly call the army "holy". Those who oppose Nahal Haredi can have a field day with this statement - it basically justifies for them every reason they have had to oppose it.
  2. saying they would never refuse orders - that is a legitimate position, but it is sure to raise the ire of many. If an order is immoral (without getting into the issue of what is called immoral - immoral to one is not moral to the next), perhaps it should be refused.
  3. they would even uproot settlements - also sure to get people angry. Many are already angry that the haredim at minimum sat idly by while settlements were dismantled, and at worst even might have been partially responsible (by keeping the government propped up at the time), and now they are stating in advance that they would physically uproot settlements in the future if called upon to do so?
  4. even if they are told to operate on Shabbos they would not refuse - obviously this is not referring to a pikuach nefesh situation as then there would be nothing to talk about. This might be the most shocking point in the whole piece. Haredi soldiers would work on shabbos just because? they would not stand up against the orders when the whole framework is meant to support their level of religion and such a situation would go against that? And for no good reason? This too seems to be a point that can raise the ire of many who oppose the concept of Nahal Haredi.
Of course that was simply the opinion of one person who is serving in the unit. It does not necessarily speak for everybody.


  1. "the army is holy work" - Enjoy it! We need more charedim to say that!

    "avreich" - Let it be. It's hard enough for any of them to do anything bdieved let them at least keep the aura of their preferred titles.

    "Shabbos" - sometimes the press finds a poor spokesman. personally I'm sure he meant pikuach nefesh on this one.

    "dismantling settlements" (even Beitar?) - ditto on the poor spokesman. he just should have ducked the question with a general the army is holy and we'd be hard-pressed to go against orders after all our participation is under auspices of Rabbanim, or something more clever if he were a gifted spokesman.

  2. There are some Nachal Charedi (btw, the formal name now is Netzach Yehuda) from and in RBS. Stop one and ask him some time. (My neighbor's son is one.) From what I've heard, these answers are far from accurate.

    On the other hand, for many of these young men the only feeling of success and positive feedback they've received has been once they entered the Army - their yeshiva years having been ones of unrelenting negativity.

  3. Rabi Hillel said that soldiers have no right to refuse orders...

  4. Maybe they believe it is a Milchemet Mitzvah. What are the halachot of Milchemet Mitzvah? Maybe they believe that their commanders would lechatchila only give orders that fall under that rubric?

    Besides, they've had enough controversy with the general public, you think stating that they would disobey certain orders would improve that at all?



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