(photo credit: AP)
Recently I was on a lecture tour in New York during which the New York Yankees baseball team won the World Series championship. One of the featured players on the Yankees who is also credited as being a primary force behind the team's World Series victory, is Alex Rodriguez, a.k.a. "A-Rod."
Following the World Series victory the New York Post headlined the player, referring to him as "A-God". This struck me odd considering that only a few months before, A-Rod admitted to using performance enhancing steroids at some point during his baseball career. I was in the US as well during the time that his admission unfolded and I recall the reaction of many New York sports fans. Fans were frustrated that a sports hero to so many young children could disgrace the sport which represents America's past time, and some insisted that he retire. Now, only a few short months later, New Yorkers not only embraced him but they elevated him and likened him to a deity!
Personally, I am not a baseball buff; football is my poison, and so when a friend invited me to go see the New York Giants play live in the Meadowlands, I jumped at the opportunity. As I watched this sports extravaganza of modern day gladiators meeting in the football arena, I was reminded not only that the New York Football Giants were not such a good team but more importantly I experienced the true persona of the New York sports fan firsthand.
On the one hand, when the Giants made a good play on the field, the fans would cheer and shout in support of their team and superior players; but when the team would falter (often only moments later) people would yell obscenities expressing their frustration with the players. Some fans even called for members of the team and the coach to be dismembered. Within fleeting moments, the mood would swing from loyal devotion and lofty expectations to critical abandonment and hopelessness. It is clear; the New York fan is passionate about his sport but non committal towards its players and teams. His fickle fluctuation makes it challenging at times for him to declare allegiance to the organization.
WERE THIS problem limited to sports perhaps it could be dismissed as trivial. Yet lately within the arena of the IDF there have been symptoms which have pointed in a similar direction, having far more serious repercussions when dealing with the parameters of the army.
This past Monday, it was reported that several soldiers from the Nahshon Battalion (many of whom belong to Hesder Yeshiva units) were suspended and punished by their commander for insubordinately waving a banner reading "Nahshon also does not expel."
This was the soldiers' way of declaring that they would not participate nor facilitate further evacuations of Jewish homes within the West Bank should the army order them to do so. These Yeshivat Hesder students claim that the banners they waved signify that, were they ordered to partake in evacuations, they would refuse to do so following the directives of their rabbis which takes precedence over the commands of their officers.
It is important to recognize that these soldiers were not issued any orders to participate in an evacuation; they hung their banner preemptively which was inconsiderate and disrespectful. More importantly, the Hesder Yeshiva student must remember that he is not only a soldier; he is a religious observant soldier who represents the moral order and outstanding values of the Jewish people and of the Torah itself.
The soldiers placed their own views and considerations ahead of the collective team, the IDF, which is unacceptable particularly within the framework of an army incessantly under duress. Yeshivat Hesder students who are serving as soldiers have every right to convey their opinion and to object, particularly with regards to issues that are sensitive to their beliefs and observance. However they must remember that the way in which they voice their concern is just as important and influential as the opinion expressed. This consideration promotes cooperation and helps ensure that all soldiers in the IDF, regardless of their diverse points of view, can effectively and loyally unite for the common purpose of protecting the Jewish homeland and the Jewish nation.
The writer teaches at Hesder Kiryat Gat/Sderot and is an author and lecturer on Israel, ReligiousZionism and Jewish education. www.rabbihammer.com