Haredi man and IDF soldiers in Jerusalem..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
In the latest occurrence of incitement against haredi enlistment to the IDF, a booklet containing the names, photos and contact details of senior figures in the haredi community who promote enlistment has been published by haredi extremists as part of their efforts to fight efforts to draft haredi men into the military.
Titled “The Hunters: the faces and names of the hunters of souls,” the booklet provides detailed information, including ID numbers, addresses and cell phone numbers, on more than 40 people, including haredi IDF officers and personnel, who direct or are involved in the IDF units dedicated to haredi men or are involved in recruiting haredi men for enlistment.
The booklet claims that “hundreds of haredi recruiters lie in wait for the youth” who are described as “professional missionaries with a haredi appearance” and who “sold their souls to Satan for a little bit of money.”
The end of the booklet features a tombstone “remembering the thousands of fallen soldiers who fell into Netzah, Shahar [haredi IDF tracks] and Givati [a brigade that includes a haredi battalion], who were captured by vile people, ‘hunters of souls’ who sold their souls to Satan.”
According to an IDF source, senior officials in the Manpower Directorate submitted a complaint to the police on Wednesday over the publication of the booklet for incitement.
A similar but much smaller booklet with just a few names was published earlier this year and the police subsequently opened an investigation although there have been no developments.
The source said there have been problems prosecuting those who are producing and printing this material, since it was not clear whether or not the flyers and posters constituted criminal incitement or were merely offensive.
In 2013, there was a wave of attacks against haredi soldiers in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood, and there were more attacks there in 2014 and in extremist haredi neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh as well.
Neta Katz, director of the IDF’s Shahar program, which places haredi men in hi-tech positions in the air force, was one of the haredi figures featured at the top of the booklet’s list, which described him as the “head of the Soul Hunters Administration.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Katz said he had received abusive phone calls from anonymous callers following the publication of the booklet, but noted that, in addition, he and others whose names and cell phone numbers were published also received phone calls from haredi men interested in possibly doing military service.
Katz was one of the people who submitted a complaint to the police and called on the police to take the matter extremely seriously and conduct a thorough investigation to find those responsible for publishing the material.
Hiddush, a religious pluralism lobbying group that has strongly advocated for haredi enlistment, said incitement against haredi soldiers was growing because of the “incompetence of the police and the state attorney’s office,” and added that those who are publishing material like the recent booklet see the failure to enforce the rule of law as an inducement to continue their activities.
“The direct responsibility for any incidence of violence against a soldier by extremist haredi thugs will lie with the legal system, which is not seriously fighting this phenomenon,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, Hiddush director and attorney.
Recent figures show that haredi enlistment to the IDF was meeting the targets set by the law for haredi conscription, approved by the Knesset in 2014, with just over 2,300 haredi men enlisting between July 2014 and July 2015, while the target was 2,300.
However, the law also required another 1,500 to enlist to the civilian service program, an alternative for haredi men to military service.
So far, just 822 men have joined the civilian service program between July 2014 and July 2015.
The law as it stands requires 5,200 haredi men to enlist to either the IDF or the civilian service by 2017 and if this target is missed all haredi men from the relevant annual cohort will be legally required to enlist to the IDF.
Current annual cohorts are thought to be approximately 8,000 men.
The law is likely to be changed under the current government however, with United Torah Judaism demanding as one of its conditions for remaining in the coalition that the legal requirement to enlist be dropped from the law.