Uniform Education - One Army - United People

Translation / Interpretation / Caption Text

Hebrew translation: Uniform education One army United people_________________________Translation courtesy of Leena Dallasheh____________________________

In November 1958, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion wrote to the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog in reply to the rabbi's letter about the recruitment of yeshiva students to the IDF:"This is, first and foremost, a great moral issue: whether it is fitting that the son of one mother is killed in defence of the homeland, and another mother's son sits in his room and studies in safety, while most of the young people of Israel are risking their lives".

The exchange of letters between the two dealt with Ben-Gurion's intention of reducing the scale of the postponement of army service, which had been granted some ten years before to ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students and which in fact gave most of them complete exemption from military duty. The prime minister's plan aroused fears among leaders of the ultra-Orthodox and religious communities, including Rabbi Herzog, that it would lead to abolition of the arrangement and that yeshiva students would be conscripted by force. Rabbi Herzog wrote to Ben-Gurion of his concern and claimed that "they, too [the yeshiva students], are enlisted and safeguard Israel's religion and heritage, which are Israel's glory, and it is due to them that we have arrived where we are today".

In his answer, Ben-Gurion explained his reasons for preparing a plan to change the existing arrangement, citing both security and moral considerations. He flatly rejected Rabbi Herzog's statement, and added: "I cannot, under any circumstances, agree with your words, that 'it is due to the yeshiva students that we have arrived at where we are today'. They did not build this country, nor did they risk their lives for its independence (although some of them did so), and they have no special rights that other Jews do not have."

Source: Israel State Archiveshttp://www.archives.gov.il/ArchiveGov_Eng/Publications/ElectronicPirsum/...