I used to think that the prevalent anti-chareidi* sentiments in the non-religious Israeli society were a product of media bias. I am sure that it is a factor, yet I am equally sure that it is much more than that, and largely our own fault.
I am chareidi, yet some of my sons are not. One is currently in the armed forces in Israel, and another will be entering this summer. The talk about the inevitability of another war makes me uneasy. When I hear the Pesach song “V’Hi S’Amdah”, I inevitably send up a prayer to the One on High, that he protect my sons, and all of our sons, from the enemies surrounding us.
No, I do not believe that everyone should serve in the army. My son needs the zechus (merit) of our Torah** to stay alive; unfortunately he does not have this zechus on his own. I do not believe that we, as a nation, could have endured in the face of the odds against us, without the merit of the Torah study and observance of our religious communities.
But the current situation is such that we DO need an army, and our sons who are serving are putting their lives on the line for the sake of their country and the people within. My sons are willing to risk their lives in order that the average Israeli can generally ride the bus without getting blown up, and yes, so that your son can go to yeshiva rather than sitting in an air-raid shelter. And I, as a loving mother, have to learn to live day-by-day with the very real fear that maybe my son will not arrive home some day. This is not the worry you have when your child goes on a field trip and returns a bit late. It is a palpable, sinking sensation that you try to overcome and control, that creeps up on you time and time again, week after week. I assure you, that if you have no relative active in the services, you have no idea of what it is like. And how a mother without faith in G-d survives it, I do not know.
Yet, when my son arrives home, dressed in his fatigues, for shabbas, he gets very few smiles. He is instead the recipient of stares. And many of them are almost hostile. His total worth seems to be that of “non-religious”, and my community seemingly can not see beyond that label. Where is the gratitude that he is standing on duty so that your child can study? The recognition that he is doing something that you are glad that your son need not do? Why is he not seen as a fellow Jew deserving of a simple smile, nod of the head, or a whispered “My G-d watch over you”, rather than the scorning looks that he receives, as if he was a carrier of some terrible virus?
Think about it. How would you feel about the chareidi community if you were in his shoes, or in mine?
PS. This post is meant as a wake-up call. I do not intend to cause a chareidi-bashing blogging event. Please do not use this post's comments section to do a big bashing fest if you have your own issues with this community and you are not chareidi. Thank-you.
*Chareidi= the ultra-Orthodox community, most of whose sons have deferments from the Army