I just finished reading this great guest contribution to Cross-Currents, titled "A Second Look at the IDF." The article is written by Eli Julian, a young married man who wanted a better means to support his wife and family and decided to join the IDF's new Shachar group, which caters toward Charedim. I was very pleasantly surprised by his positive experience, as well as the encouragement he has received from a rabbinic leader like Rabbi Yitzchok Zilbershtein of Cholon.
Arguably, this is one of the most encouraging parts of the article:
At one point during the time I spent there, Rav Zilbershtein was coming to Yerushalayim to speak at the Agudas Yisroel Yarchei Kallah, so I got approval from my commander to go to the speech instead of going to the kollel that day. Being that I was only traveling locally, I decided to come in a hat and jacket as opposed to my army uniform that I wore daily to the kollel. The next day Rav Zilbershtein called me over. “Why didn’t you wear your uniform yesterday?” He asked me. “I was only traveling locally. I felt more comfortable in my hat and jacket,” I replied. “I think you should have come in your uniform,” he responded. When I seemed puzzled, he continued, “Do you know what a Limud Zechus you are on the Medina? Here the Medina pays you a salary and tells you ‘Make sure to keep your religious lifestyle, make sure that you learn Torah.’ You need to publicize that! I think that whenever you go to a public place of learning, you should wear your uniform.”
I'm very pleased to see that the divide between secular and religious is showing some signs, however small, of being broken down along with growth of achdus and acceptance.
Who knows, if we can all work together in earnest ahavas chinam, maybe next Tisha B'Av we will all gather together in Yerushalayim to celebrate the mo'ed that it is meant to be?