Both Hares and Tortoises Will Be Winners

March 7, 2024
GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty Images

Like secularly transgressive soldiers in the I.D.F.

who are not orthodox, Hareydim

join Jews who to all the Torah’s laws aren’t def-

erential and to God have never prayed, im-

itating all King David’s military winners,

turned into Torah true Tortoiseim not competing

with secular haverim, non-Haredim spinners,

both of them winners, Hamas foes defeating.


In “Gaza War Is Shifting Ties Between Secular and Ultra-Orthodox Israelis,” NYT, 3/4/24, Patrick Kingsley and Natan Odenheimer write:

In a neighborhood of Jerusalem, ultra-Orthodox Jewish residents cheered a soldier returning from military service. At a religious seminary, similarly devout students gathered to hear an officer talk about his military duties. And at a synagogue attended by some of the most observant Jews in the country, members devoted a Torah scroll in memory of a soldier slain in Gaza. 

Nearly 30 percent of the Haredi public now supports conscription, 20 points higher than before the war, according to a poll conducted in December by the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs, a Jerusalem-based research group. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said their sense of shared destiny with other Israelis had intensified since the Oct. 7 attacks.

“We see some change within the Haredi community,” said Avigdor Liberman, the leader of a nationalist party that has long campaigned to end Haredi privileges. “They understand it is impossible to continue without participating more in our society.”

Incorporating more Haredim, a conservative population, into a modern military includes its own set of challenges, like addressing sensitivities involving men serving alongside women. Yet, more than 2,000 Haredim sought to join the military in the first 10 weeks of the war, a tiny proportion of the serving army but two times the group’s annual average. More Arab Israelis join the army than do the ultra-Orthodox. 

Those few Haredim already in the military have reported feeling more feted in their communities, leading them to feel more confident walking through their neighborhoods in uniform.

Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored “Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel.” He can be reached at gershonhepner@gmail.com.

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.