Friday, July 13, 2012

Share the burdens

     It’s common wisdom that all Israeli citizens, male and female alike, serve a stint in their army or do civilian public service. Except they don’t.

     Ultra-orthodox religious Jewish religious students, thousands of them, are are exempted from such service and their number is growing. Even though special treatment has been granted to the religios students. since the founding of the Jewiwh state courts and the citizenry are declaring that it is time to end this clerly undemocraric  praThe New York Times reported this week that conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has committed to increase significantly reducing the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab citizensIsraelis who can avoid national servicee. A bi-partisan commission is rushing to develop a system to replace the current exemption laws by August 1.

     Since 2003, the United States has pursued two massive military campaigns by calling on its volunteer force of regular military personnel and citizen soldiers from the National Guard and military reserve units. Most have served multiple tours of duty. Soldiers with the Guard and Reserves spend years away from careers and families, which seriously disrupts their civilian lives.

     The issue in the U.S. as in Israel is the sharing of national burdens. In the U.S., the divisions between those who serve and those who don’t are not religious, nor are they really racial, though minority groups are overrepresented in the military. They are geographic and economic.

     Rural and suburban areas in the South, West, South Central and Mountain states are over-represented, the Army reports. New Englanders, urbanites, graduates of Ivy League colleges, and . upper middle class and wealthy kids mostly do not go to war. A few give a year or two to AmeriCorps or Vista, but with the end of the Vietnam War, Congress ended the draft. The nation has never demanded universal national service, thus creating fertile ground for class divisions.

     Prime Minister Netanyahu cut to the heart of the problem when he said, “We are citizens of one state, and we must all participate in bearing the burden of service to the state.”state.” Netanyahu is taking a significant risk. The ultra-orthodox parties have very often determined which political party controls the Israeli government. Netanyahu and his Likud party may pay a political price for this action, but he has taken a step that will help unify his nation

     If the only way the U.S. can share spread the burdens required to function militarily as a single nation is a draft, then let’s get back to it. If we aren’t willing to put everyone in a uniform, then let’s add a non-military option.

     Let’s follow Israel’s lead because when only some of us serve so the rest of us can stay home and  relaxand relax, we stop being one nation.

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