COMMENT: Engaging and Disengaging

Wednesday — when the automatic majority of the coalition passed the forced army draft of yeshivah students, which includes criminal sanctions — was a tragic day in the history of the State of Israel. One of the saddest moments came when the Knesset erupted in applause after the bill’s passage, as though the Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett coalition had triumphed over an enemy. Even those in favor of the bill should have shown more civility than to be ecstatic over its passage. At best, it was a bittersweet victory.

The chareidi MKs decided to  boycott certain Knesset sessions or, as they describe it, declare a disengagement. It also determined a time from which that disengagement will involve criminal sanctions, delegitimization, a denial of rights, and perhaps even prison terms. This is exactly how things looked when the idea of another disengagement was presented — the disengagement from Gush Katif. Jews were evacuted from their homes, and the legislators who uprooted them then delegitimized them. The media presented them as “terrorists of the peace.” Whoever was deemed to be protesting “excessively” was arrested. While those who were uprooted and their supporters, who challenged the injustice pepetrated against them, their faith and their dignity — were faced with those from the other side of the divide who preached to them, explaining that it was impossible to make others suffer because of them.

Ironically, today it is the representatives of the uprooted who’ve become  the uprooters. They too joined the  applause in the Knesset. Only one representative — Yoni Chetboun — had the courage to stand up and say, “I also object to this position, I am not ready to trample on their lifestyle and their faith.” Their coalition partners, some of whom built their entire political careers on the chareidi naïveté that imagined that there was substance to their friendly declarations — are among those uprooters, among the creators of this disengagement.

But chareidim  will not be disengaging from Torah life. Those who believe in the veracity of the passuk, “V’atem hadveikim baShem Elokeichem, chayim kulchem hayom” will, iy”H, cleave to Torah learning. They will educate their children to cleave to Torah learning with mesirus nefesh, because “This is our life and the length of our days and it is in Torah that we will toil day and night” — despite everything.