Fleeing the Draft

Two chareidi young men looking at the Kotel

The other day it was reported that former Chief Rabbi Rav Ovadia Yosef said that yeshiva students would be better off to leave Israel rather than be drafted into the IDF.

I waited to comment on this.

I was wondering if there would be any sort of clarification or retraction.

I haven’t seen any.

Before I start, let me put in all of the usual and expected qualifications:

I’m [blank] compared to [blank]. I have no business to speak after he has spoken.


However, I do have an opinion, so here goes.

Several things are clear to me.

1. No Harm

For most yeshiva students, serving a couple of years in the IDF will not harm them.

They are not going to become gedolim no matter how many hours a day they sit in yeshiva.

That is just a simple fact of life.

It’s been a fact since the time of the Gemara.

I showed this to a friend. He thought I was saying that only men who will become gedolim should learn in yeshiva.


Everyone who has the desire, ability, and resources to learn should do.

However, for many men that will mean that there will be some breaks in full time learning.

They may need to train for a career or they may need to serve their country.

After their service they should be welcomed back to the yeshiva, if that is what they want.

2. Abuse of the System

It’s clear that there is some abuse of the current system of draft deferments.

You just have to walk down the street in any hareidi section of Jerusalem during normal yeshiva hours to know this.

You will see numerous guys out on the street who are supposed to be in the beit midrash.

3. Serving Will Help

There are some guys currently in yeshiva who not only don’t belong there, they would be helped by serving in the IDF or national service.

Sitting learning all day is killing them spiritually.

These are guys who aren’t cut out for learning, but feel stuck.

They will make fine ba’alei batim, they just need to have that path made available to them.

Two chareidi young men looking at the Kotel

Two chareidi young men looking at the Kotel

4. Limited Draft

My understanding is that not all yeshiva students will be subject to the draft.

In other words, there will still be a certain number of exemptions.

This will give the yeshivot a chance to keep the top students in the beit midrash fulltime.

I’ve heard that the objection to this is basically, “We can’t tell who the top students are. It may not become obvious until a fellow is older.”

To this I say, “Baloney.”

Sure, there will be late bloomers. But is that really where the gedolim come from?

I think it’s clear to the administrators and teachers in yeshivot which 18-year-old students are showing real potential.

I would even propose this simple, but accurate test:

Dear Rosh Yeshiva:

Do you view student Y as a potential husband for your daughter or granddaughter?

If not, please tell him to report for assignment to an IDF unit.

Your Turn

That’s it. My two cents worth.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Picture by David Berkowitz.

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