Mar 30, 2014

The 10 commandments for the Haredi soldier

In light of the increased enlistment of haredi soldiers, with the increase expected to continue in light of the new draft law, and the increased involvement of the haredi soldiers in combat situations, such as in Netzach Yehuda, the IDF is committed to solving the dilemmas faced by the religious soldier.

To that end, the IDF recently published a pamphlet, put together by army rabbis, that deals with those dilemmas and various situations a soldier might find himself in and not know what to do. The information is compiled based on many years of experience in dealing with similar scenarios.

The pamphlet has been dubbed "The Ten Commandments for the Haredi Soldier", but it is really called "Halachic Instructions for Combat Actions".

The pamphlet mainly deals with issues related to Shabbos observance.

From Ynet (Hebrew, English):
 The very first directive emphasizes that the mentioned rules apply only when there is no urgent need for action. In other cases – like a firefight or immediate danger – the soldier must fulfill his mission as soon as possible.
"Desecrating Shabbat due to operational necessities is not a sin, but a mitzvah," says the pamphlet.
Main principles noted in the pamphlet
Shabbat check-list: Remove unnecessary equipment from flak jacket and vehicle, change batteries in radio equipment, prepare list of guard shifts, call parents to wish them Shabbat shalom, light candles. Refuel vehicles and check water and oil before Shabbat.
Civilian action or operational activity? Determine beforehand whether the weekend missions are of a civilian nature – like securing tourists and reinforcing other units.
Driving on Shabbat: One should not push the gas pedal unnecessarily nor drive more than is required. Driving is only permitted for security incidents and medical emergency.
Using electricity: A fan may be turned on only if the temperature may harm the operational status of the unit.
Using radio: Announce ahead of time that you do not answer non-operational calls on Shabbat. If there is any doubt as to the nature of the call, the soldier must answer.
Outpost and base drills: Only before Shabbat.
Sticklight and thermal bag: Permitted on condition they prevent worse violations of Shabbat. Flak jacket may contain food, snacks, Torah, map, binoculors, compass, and night-vision gear, but not sunglasses, keys, and wallets.
Driving to a guard post on the far-side of the base is not permitted, and the soldier should consult with the rabbi on the correct procedure for larger bases.
Showering on Shabbat: The IDF heats its water using a thermal system relying on gas and solar energy; thus, hot water is not allowed on Sabbath. Cold showers are permitted.
While some might compare this to the pig described in the Torah who hides his snout (to hide the lack of the chewing of the cud) while sticking its split hooves out to make itself look kosher, I see this as an attempt to deal with the new reality. The religious soldiers, haredi as well, will be increasing in coming years. If the IDF wants the transition to go relatively smoothly, these are issues it must deal with, and they are.

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  1. "Desecrating Shabbat due to operational necessities is not a sin, but a mitzvah," says the pamphlet

    What is the definition of "operational necessities"?

    Can soldiers really be ordered to, for example, secure tourists on Shabbos, as the list suggests? Suppose a charedi or religious soldier is asked to do something clearly not within the realm of pikuach nefesh -- for example, escort tourists -- on Shabbos. Is he permitted to refuse?

  2. SB, Beit ShemeshMarch 30, 2014 9:14 PM

    I genuinely do give them credit for trying but I think all this really shows is what an impossible and ultimately futile task this is.
    By the way why is it permitted to carry a Torah on shabbos?

  3. anonymous

    operational necessity mean ANYTHING related to work in the field, jobs which the army would do during the week. it does not include stuff like administrative activities. since the army is responsible for security in YOSH, operational necessity includes anything related to that - including providing security to non-jews, if required. it includes securing roads which jews drive on during shabbat to get a to a mall. anything.

  4. < shows is what an impossible and ultimately futile task this is.>

    why futile? if you really feel that way, you have a problem, a big one, because you are benefiting directly and indirectly from all sorts of chillul shabbat.

    1. SB, Beit ShemeshMarch 31, 2014 2:00 PM

      I was referring to the effort of integrating chareidim into the army way of life - they are simply worlds apart.
      For sure, for those who will listen to psakim of the army rabbinate, such a publication is very necessary and a good thing.

  5. Sorry to correct you on a few things but
    A) the Haredi enlistment has decreased, and the law means with will plunge because many thousands just got exempt
    B) there is absolutely nothing new here and no new reality. I got drafted in the mid nineties and there was already army halachot and army standing orders identical to this to guide the religious soldier as well as his commander and to protect his/her rights and certainly over the past 20 years more has come out in more details. I've protected tourists at Mt Hermon and sunbathers in Eilat on Shabbat and new how to keep 'hilul Shabbat' to the minimum and strongly resist the good nature of non-religious who wanted to do me favours.

    But baruch Hashem, the Haredim wanted to avoid leading and learning army halachot, and maybe this time, there will finally be a common area which NR and Haredi rabbis will need to sit and cooperate to focus even more.

    1. josh is correct. i also protected people doing "fun stuff" on shabbat. on my facebook feed there was a story about the army protecting some huge party where some of the people were using drugs. part of the job.

      and i got those same instructions about shabbat.


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