Conflict in the Middle East never seems to cease, especially with regard to Israel. However, the recent conflict in Israel has been internal, involving those within the borders, as opposed to external, pertaining to the surrounding countries pressing in. In the recent election, there arose an issue about the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population—called the Haredim—serving in the Israeli military.
While Netanyahu (Israel’s current prime minister) is trying to keep the peace, he is clearly under some pressure with other political figures pushing into this topic.
Although there are many opinions as to why the conflict has become such a heated debate, one thing is certain—it has created a tumultuous environment in Israel.
The Conflict in Israel
Israel has had a long tradition of absolving the Haredim from military service—actually, since its independence. The country’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was the first to exempt 400 religious students from the draft.
But the question is, why?
For the Israeli government, the reason was to allow them time to regrow their Haredim population and thus be able to carry on their legacy. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish population suffered a tremendous loss during the Holocaust, and were facing extinction due to low numbers.
For the Haredim, the reason was so that they could spend their time studying the Torah as their strict religion calls them to do. Also, their religious beliefs call them to disconnect themselves from many aspects of the modern world, making integration into the military extremely difficult.
Since 1948, when Israel was reclaimed by the Jewish people and Ben-Gurion exempted the Haredi Jews, the country’s ultra-Orthodox population has swelled dramatically.
Haredi Jews now make up about 10 percent of Israel’s population, which makes extinction a far-fetched possibility and—in theory—should free them up for military service.
However, the Haredim maintain that the military still conflicts with their current religious beliefs and would require time away from yeshiva or seminary.
Thus, the conflict in Israel.
The Political Conflict
Obviously, the government is facing some serious issues with such a large part of the population being ultra-Orthodox. The Haredim feel that they are entitled to exemption from the military as it has been since 1948 when Israel was restored.
On the other hand, others find it unconstitutional that the Haredim are not required to enlist. Netanyahu’s government has begun to crumble beneath the weight of this conflict.
To add insult to injury, one-time ally Avigdor Lieberman—the staunchly secular head of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Is Our Home) party—has refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition unless the prime minister could ensure that Lieberman’s version of a Haredi draft bill would pass.
The draft bill that Lieberman is pushing sets yearly minimum targets for conscripting ultra-Orthodox men. It also imposes financial sanctions on the seminaries where students study if the quotas are not met.
The way the some see it, military service is a vital duty and source of national cohesion for Israelis. They believe that all Jews should enlist.
Netanyahu needs the support of both the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population and Lieberman’s party to confidently remain in office, which creates a major political crisis for the current prime minister.
What does that mean for the Haredim?
The Religious Conflict
The Haredim feel that their constitutional right to study and practice religion is being infringed upon. After all, this was written into the law since Israel became a state.
Contrary to Lieberman’s suggested bill, the parties that back the ultra-Orthodox communities demand exemptions for any religious man who wishes to study rather than serve in the military.
The ultra-Orthodox are in favor of keeping the existing state of affairs, which sees enlistment [for them] as effectively voluntary.
Recognizing Israel’s Enemy
With all this tension brewing, resulting in conflict in Israel, how can we begin to refocus on God and His truths? Thus, bringing the truth, His promised land, and His people back into alignment with one another?
First, we must reestablish the truth that there is an enemy seeking to destroy all that God has restored, and we need to stand vigilant against that dark force.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”—1 Peter 5:8
The enemy isn’t the Israeli government nor is it the Haredim. The enemy in this situation is manifesting in the form of distraction. He works to keep you, the United States, as well as Israel, from identifying the work God is doing in His promised land.
“I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.”—Amos 9:14
Rest assured that America and Christians are a part of that restoration process.
The Bible tells the story that invites all into God’s plan of restoration. When Christians stay focused on their relationship with Jesus, He invites them to help restore the relationship between His chosen people of Israel, their land, and their God.
“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”—John 10:16 (emphasis added)
By continuing to plant seeds of love and restoration to the land of Israel, we are fulfilling God’s prophecy set forth in Amos. Thus, we are weaving ourselves into the glorious unfolding of His plan of redemption.
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