Haredi man, IDF ceremony Tal Law Keshev IDF390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The ongoing campaign of deligitimization being waged by ultra-Orthodox
extremists against haredi soldiers is gathering strength, the IDF warned on
A sub-committee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee heard disturbing reports about the phenomenon waged in recent months
by hardline haredi elements opposing the drafting of yeshiva students into the
IDF against haredi soldiers.
The campaign includes the distribution of
posters and fliers, harassment of soldiers and even physical
Members of the haredi community refer to ultra-Orthodox soldiers
as “hardakim,” taken to mean a “weak-minded haredi” who has betrayed the
The word is also a portmanteau of the word harakim, Hebrew for
“insects,” and “haredi.”
Speaking in the Sub-Committee for Personnel and
Training, Brigadier-General Gadi Agmon from the IDF Manpower Directorate
compared the rhetoric of the campaign to the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der
, noting that that phenomenon was gathering strength in an unprecedented
“We’re seeing efforts to remove haredi soldiers from their
neighborhoods, from synagogues and from yeshivot,” said Agmon, adding that the
campaign was being conducted across the country in all major haredi population
Haredi kindergartens and elementary schools have also reportedly
refused to accept the children of haredi soldiers.
Agmon noted that in
addition to the intense social pressure, the army has received 80 complaints of
physical violence and verbal abuse, in which haredi soldiers have reported that
tires of their vehicles have been slashed, graffiti has been sprayed at their
homes, they have been spat on and had stones thrown at them. The general noted
that family members of haredi soldiers were also being targeted by the
extremists and harassed.
Despite the 80 complaints, the police has
received only one formal complaint, on the basis of which it opened three
criminal files. No arrests have been made to date.
Elhanan Fromer, a
former IDF soldier who served in the haredi IDF Shahar track and who attended
Monday’s hearing, said that if he were considering whether or not to enlist
today he would chose not to because of the heavy personal price involved in the
He said that synagogues frequently refuse to allow haredi
soldiers to participate in prayer services, and that if they are allowed to join
the minyan, or quorum of men, they are prevented from being called up to the
Torah and face other sanctions.
“In haredi society, acceptance in haredi
institutions is critical,” Fromer said.
Referring to the discrepancy
between the number of reports of harassment known to the army and the number of
formal complaints made to the police, he said that “We all know that the moment
you submit a complaint, the harassment against you just gets worse.” Fromer
called specifically for the state to fine any institution that prevents IDF
graduates from joining them, but added that haredi soldiers were currently
feeling neglected by the state.
He called attention to the absence of any
haredi MKs in the committee hearing and pointed out that haredi soldiers had no
communal support at all for their choice to enlist, neither from rabbis nor from
politicians, and added that the failure of the state to take steps to protect
haredi soldiers left them feeling completely abandoned.
Also present at
the hearing was MK Elazar Stern, a former IDF major general and commander of the
IDF Manpower Directorate, who called for radical measures to be taken against
anyone involved in the campaign, including a parallel campaign of police
harassment against suspects such as those printing fliers and posters against
“Anyone who is embittering the lives of haredi soldiers
needs to have his life embittered in return. Someone who harms the state and
abuses the law [while technically not infringing it] must have his life
disrupted within the bounds of the law, just as we do with the most serious
criminals in our midst,” said Stern.
The Hatnua MK also noted that unless
the problem was solved, haredi men would stop enlisting in the armed forces
During the proceedings, Bayit Yehudi MK Moti Yogev laid the
blame for the campaign squarely at the feet of the Yesh Atid and Kadima parties
for publicly advocating coercive measures against haredim not
Yogev pointed to the increasing number of haredim who have
enlisted in the last five years as proof that the situation was improving but
said that the policies being advanced by the Peri committee – tasked with
drawing up legislation for drafting haredim – was causing “strategic damage to
the State of Israel” and had caused a regression in the battle to get more
haredim to enlist in the IDF.