the army was concerned, she no longer existed.
She never understood exactly why it had to be this way. The Torah stated specifically that during a war of defense even the bride under the canopy was not exempt from participating in the battle, although she was forbidden to carry arms. She never did understand how the rabbis got around that. It was stated so clearly. And yet not only didn’t haredi girls participate in the country’s defense during war or any other time, but neither did haredi men, all those learning in the yeshivot, something for which there was no basis at all in Jewish law.
She had no idea that it stemmed from Ben Gurion’s 1948 concession to rabbis who demanded that their few hundred yeshiva students be draft exempt in light of all the thousands of yeshiva students killed during the Holocaust. Now the number of draft exemptions had risen into the thousands and was a constant source of antagonism between haredim and secular as well as modern Orthodox Israelis, whose own yeshiva students combined Talmud study with army service.
She understood more about the girls not serving. After all, how could she, or any of the girls around her, be expected to wear pants! Or be in a unit where men and women were together all the time! She had heard many stories about officers and the girls they commanded sleeping together. Going to the army was unthinkable for girls, she often thought wistfully.
Still she often found herself examining the young girl soldiers she came across in the street or on buses. Their khaki skirts and shirts seemed so tight and revealing to her, yet also wonderful. Adventurous. She wondered what it would be like to board a bus at an army recruiting station with a hundred girls she had never met; to ride off to a training camp and learn to live in a tent and crawl through the mud and shoot a gun. Or perhaps to fix a tank or work in an office surrounded by handsome young officers.
There was also no question of her, or anyone else she knew, going to the university, either. Beit Yaakov did not allow the girls to take their bagrut exams, much less follow a curriculum that prepared the girls to pass them. There was no reason to. Colleges, as everyone knew, were simply hothouses for the corruption of pure Jewish men and women. Not only did the sexes mix indiscriminately, but they also learned indiscriminately: alien philosophies, the lies of Darwin, the nonsense and filth of novels … How often had it been hammered into her since childhood how weak she was and how strong temptation; how she must constantly guard her eyes, her mouth, her heart, from seeing, tasting, feeling, all things that could lead to sin and G-d’s displeasure.
The reality of the army or the university was beyond frightening. Nothing in her upbringing or experience had brought her close enough to even create an unfulfilled longing for such things.
Yet she had no control over her dreams. She dreamed not of being allowed to go to the army and university, but of being there and how it would feel. She dreamed of it the way, long ago, she had dreamed of being a bird, or a cloud, or a lion in the jungle; or the way now she sometimes dreamed of being a bodiless soul soaring to G-d’s heavenly throne after death.
She was not hungry for the reality of new experiences, she often convinced herself, experiences that required decisions, produced complications, and bandied about temptations that led so effortlessly and horrendously into the dark abyss of sin. She felt safe in her reality. Her home, her school, the people around her, the clear lines of duty and faith, provided the strong footbridge over the turbulent, threatening world of choice, doubt, and dangers that crashed constantly below her. She walked securely, holding on to the narrow sides that encompassed and supported her. Seldom did she peek over the side. Her reality was safety. It was the promise of a good, pure life.
The need for adventure she sublimated rose up in
Marcia Muller Bill Pronzini
Teresa Giudice, K.C. Baker