Israel needs its own ‘Home Front’

The Jews who fought on the side of the Allies did so knowing the fight was about Jewish national survival.

IDF soldiers march in the Judean Desert 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
IDF soldiers march in the Judean Desert 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
On the 8th and 9th of May, we will celebrate and commemorate the days when the Allies were victorious over the Nazis during the Second World War. As Jews, this date has special significance which meant that the Holocaust had ended as the victorious troops liberated the remnant of European Jewry that had, against all odds, survived the Nazi killing machine.
The Allied victory is an important event to remember, not just to commemorate the end of the Holocaust, but also to celebrate and give thanks to the soldiers who rid the world of the Nazi evil. In Israel, and among Diaspora Jewry, we know that many Jews played important roles in the effort to defeat the Third Reich.
Today, in Israel, there are many who came from the former Soviet Union, the United States, Great Britain and elsewhere that fought alongside the Jewish Palestinian brigades and the Jewish Partisans to defeat the Axis Powers.
The Jews who fought on the side of the Allies did so knowing that the battle was about much more than just winning the war for the freedom of their respective countries.
It was about Jewish national survival.
Not only was European Jewry decimated, much of North African Jewry had been herded into concentration camps to await their fate and the Jewish Yishuv in Mandatory Palestine was just a few hundred kilometers from Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s troops.
The Jews in the Allied armies fought in a war which put the very survival of their people into doubt.
As we have been for much of our long and turbulent history, the Jewish People are still subjected to many threats. The difference between then and now is the difference between helplessness and the power to defend ourselves by ourselves.
The Israel Defense Forces are the barrier against our enemies who seek to destroy our national sovereignty and conquer our territory. Our brave soldiers stand on our borders day and night to defend us from those who wish to do us harm.
However, for far too long, not all have played their part in this life-saving and imperative role. Large segments of our population have not played their part. While we do not ask every Israeli to join the IDF, we do ask all Israelis to contribute to the national burden, whether through military, national or communal service.
DURING THE Second World War, Great Britain came under systematic attack as the Nazis tried to conquer or at least quell the British war effort through prolonged assault from the air, known as “The Blitz.” The contribution by civilian men and women to the British war effort was acknowledged with the use of the term “Home Front” to describe the efforts waged on a domestic level on behalf of the armed forces. The employment of civilians in areas to pick up the slack of those who had to go to war ensured national solidarity and assisted the successful outcome of the war.
Israel continues to fight for its independence and sovereignty and we need to emulate the British “Home Front.” In times of need, all hands must be on deck. Those who, on religious grounds, currently object to joining the army or the war effort have only to look at the concept of Milchemet Mitzva (War by Commandment), where all serve during defensive wars, to understand that this is a Jewish legal imperative.
My grandfather fought and died in the Second World War while battling the Nazis. He, along with many other Jews around the world, died while fighting for a better future for the Jewish nation. I know that his sacrifice was not in vain as I now proudly serve the people of Israel as a member of Knesset. I know that then as now, we have no choice but to take up arms and go into battle. Those who can not do so can at least help this effort and contribute to our “Home Front.”
It is in the memory of all those who fought against the Nazis, as well as all of those who fell in Israel’s wars, that we must immediately implement a law that necessitates an equally shared national burden. Our national struggles are great and we need the whole country to be pulling in the same direction. Only with a united effort can we meet our challenges successfully and build a better society with all benefitting.
With this in mind, Yisrael Beytenu will continue to propose a law correcting a long-standing national aberration. We have tabled a law that calls on all Israelis to undertake National Service in various guises, providing many different options for Israelis from all backgrounds. This is long overdue and we finally have a chance to rectify this discrimination.
We hope all of the Zionist parties from across the political spectrum in the next Knesset will come and support our proposed law, without any gimmicks or excuses. Our people who fell while fighting against those who seek to destroy us deserve nothing less.
The writer is a member of Knesset and secretary-general for Yisrael Beytenu – Israel Our Home.