SOUL SECURITY: MILITARY SERVICE? – 12 Feb 2013

The Prime Minister-designate, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, is facing difficulties forming a new government coalition, partly over the issue of “sharing the burden”.  Sharing the burden here primarily refers to more equality in sharing the economic and military burdens of the country.  The political agenda of Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid (There is a Future), the party receiving the second largest number of votes in the recent elections last month, included in its platform making military service compulsory for most of the ultra-orthodox religious Jewish men who have been exempted in order to ‘study Torah’ (which is not really the Law of Moses or the Old Testament, but rather the Gemara, or commentaries on the Torah by Jewish sages of earlier centuries).  The dilemma is growing as the percent of the ‘haredi‘  population grows, putting a burden not only on the defense of the nation, but also on the cost of paying social welfare subsidies to more and more non-working adult males.

One of the fears of the ultra-orthodox haredi community is the rampant secularism of the military institution, which they fear will negatively impact those young men (and women) with respect to their religious convictions.  It is just on this matter that proclaims the weakness of their rabbinic religion and faith.  Even us among the Messianic community of believers in Yeshua/Jesus recognize the risks at this juncture in the life of our children who generally do go and serve in one of the branches of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces/Tzahal):  the years of military service of 18-21 year-olds is a proving ground and critical turning point in their lives regarding the choices they make for the way in which they will live.

We as believers in Messiah Yeshua are stereotypically accused of belonging to a cult, a deviant religious belief system outside the predominant religious culture, controlling and minutely regulating the lives of the adherents, and threatening to the ‘normative identification’.  In Israel’s case, the predominant religion and culture is Judaism, which denies and rejects the truth of Messiah being Jesus.  Yet, nearly all who identify themselves as of the Messianic Jewish/Christian faith (excluding Arab Christians) in Israel serve in the IDF, defending the country and its people — including the haredim and the Arabs —  as a necessary phase in their lives, not only as citizens, but also in submitting to the civil authority under which we live.

For those who believe in Yeshua, this is part of religious faith, too, in this present evil age, even while we much prefer peace to war, and look with expectation for the Lord’s return to transform this world.  The large majority of the believers in Yeshua here of working age also have jobs whose incomes are taxed by Israel.  We are not cloistered away, but are sent even as sheep among wolves.  (See earlier post on the topic of serving one’s country here:    http://streamsinthenegev.com/latest-news/serving-ones-country-4-july-2012/  )

The tension in Israeli society between the secular and the religious is not between the large majority of Israeli Jews and the small minority of believers in Yeshua, but between the vast majority of seculars who believe that they are just as Jewish as the growing minority of the ultra-religious who claim to be the guardians of Jewish identity.  Which is more the ‘cult’?  According the the Law of Moses, all have a role to play as one people and family to share the burden of hearing YHVH’s voice and doing His will.  Then, there will be an end to civil strife, military conflict, economic struggle . . . and the one true God will be glorified:  Israel will be His people, and He will be their God; and all the nations of the Earth will praise and glorify the God of Israel for what He has done!

SERVING ONE’S COUNTRY – 4 July 2012

“Chairman of the Keshev Committee, Yohanan Plesner, tasked with creating recommendations to replace the Tal Law, presented the findings of his now-disbanded committee Wednesday morning, which included a goal of 80 percent haredi participation in military and civilian service within four years and the imposition of personal sanctions on those who do not serve.The report recommends applying a principle of “service for all,” which would apply to the ultra-Orthodox haredi population and later to the Israeli-Arab population.” ( Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2012)
 
Israel is a limited  democracy, meaning that rule by the people is not available to all, nor does the majority always control political decisions which determine the well-being of the whole of its society.  This is okay.  As believers in Yeshua/Jesus, such a situation does not always ‘help’ us, but it does help us keep our trust and hope in God and not in man.
 
The God of Israel, who is also the Creator of the Universe, shows us repeatedly through the Bible and in history that He accomplishes His sovereign purposes through a ‘few’ rather than the ‘many’.  Israel is the prime example of this, being chosen not for any virtue of her own as individuals or as a national group, nor for being by any means large in number; but, rather, simply because of His love and covenantal faithfulness to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and because of Israel being the fewest in number.  God’s sovereignty would be displayed through the littleness and weakness of ‘people power’.
 
When it comes to military service, it would be folly to require every able-bodied man (or woman, when necessary) to serve.  There are exceptions given in the Law of Moses concerning fitness for military service, and for life circumstances that allow for exemptions. (Dt 20:5-8)  Also in the teachings of Yeshua and of His apostles, there are instructions which allow for non-combative service.  Those for whom  these exemptions and exceptions are applicable have reason for not being required to serve their country in a full military capacity.
 
In the Bible we see that the Priests would lead the Israeli army in battles, but with trumpets, not with carnal weapons.  Their study of the Book of the Law was not to exempt them from defending their land and compatriots, but their service was rendered by maintaining dependency upon YHVH, and not upon the military forces own abilities and power. 
 
From its reestablishment as a sovereign state following the War of Independence in 1948-49, Israel has not required the Arab populations to be enlisted.  Even though some Arab groups have given up part of their lives to serve their country Israel within the military forces, the decision not to make Arab service compulsory was two-fold:  1) Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people; the Jewish people will defend it and those who live within her borders; 2) Israel recognized the dilemma of the Arabs living in Israel:  all of Israel’s enemies are Arabized nations.  Israel did not want Arabs to have to fight against their own relatives, which could often be the case; nor could Israel risk the ‘loyalty test’ of its Arab citizens.  What Israel would want is gratitude for the benefits of being ‘Israeli’, and for being protected along with everyone else who love their country.  But the burden of defending the nation would fall upon the Jews.
 
Not all citizens should be required to serve in the military.  All citizens of a certain age range and at a certain time of their life  should be required to serve their country in some form of constructive national service established by law for all, with the Biblical exceptions for exemption included.