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Just before 2 a.m. in a different part of Geulah, posters are being stuck, when a member of the Boyaner Hasidic community appears and politely asks for copies of them. The activists believe that he is interested in their campaign. He walks in the same direction as they drive, and appears again at their next stop. “You’ll pay for this with your life and your soul,” he suddenly shouts, telling them that he has arranged for Hasidim to remove the posters. “The Zionists want to do nothing except take our religion away.”
Learning that three of the activists are serving soldiers, the Boyaner Hasid yells, “Leave the army and tell them we’re Jews, not goyim.” He tells them: “Do you know why [Israel’s enemies] are not killing us now? Because we’re learning in yeshiva, only because of that.”
After this encounter, the activists worry that the Boyaner may have tipped off residents of Mea Shearim to be vigilant against them. That could mean a dangerous, even physical confrontation. Instead of leaving the car and putting up posters there, they decide to drop the posters out of their car windows while driving through that most hard line of neighborhoods.
As they travel between the pashkevil walls, the activists discuss what motivates them. Mordechai, 22, speaks of the double life he leads, residing in a flat in Jerusalem and going about his military duties, and then returning on weekends to his family home in the Haredi settlement of Modi’in Illit, where he does not speak of his service. His father is a respected rabbi and head of a kollel, or communal Talmud study center, where hardly anybody knows of his son’s secret. The ultimate fear among the small number of Haredim serving, says Mordechai, is that service brings disrepute on families and makes it hard for any members to arrange marriages, or shidduchim.
One of nine children in his family, Mordechai said sadly, “In every family…[enlistment] causes problems for shidduchim…. I have several friends [who enlisted] who can’t go back to their parents, and their parents don’t want to talk by phone — they even sat shiva.”
After initially shunning service due to family and community pressure, Mordechai became a combat soldier a year-and-a-half ago, after he encountered some youngsters serving in a Haredi battalion. But the army, soon realizing the potential that his background and his drive gave him, moved him to a recruitment office.