An encouraging increase in the numbers of ultra-Orthodox recruits enlisting in
the army has taken place in recent years in a trend that needs nurturing, the
annual State Comptroller’s Report revealed on Tuesday.
upward momentum, the report noted an even greater rise in the numbers of haredim
deferring their military service for full-time, government-supported yeshiva
The report comes against the background of the bitter political
struggle to replace the “Tal Law,” which since 2002 has enshrined in law the
option for mainly ultra- Orthodox men to indefinitely postpone military service
if they are studying full time in yeshiva, while also providing certain
incentives to increase haredi enlistment.
The law was struck down as
illegal by the High Court of Justice in February this year and will officially
expire on August 1.
In the review conducted between September 2010 and
August 2011 of the IDF’s efforts to enlist more ultra- Orthodox soldiers into
its ranks, published as part of its annual report, the State Comptroller’s
Office focused on a government decision of January 2011 entitled “The
advancement of military and civilian service in the ultra- Orthodox sector,”
which set a target of 2,400 haredi soldiers to be enlisted in
According to the report’s findings, a discernible and “important”
increase has been registered in the number of haredim enlisting in recent years,
exceeding the intermediary government target of 1,200 recruits in 2011 and an
increase over this figure of 300 haredi recruits every year
The report cited figures showing that in 2010, approximately
1,000 haredi men eligible for military service enlisted in the IDF, representing
13 percent of possible recruits from the ultra-Orthodox sector. In 2011, 1,280
haredim, representing 16% of the potential draft from the haredi sector,
enlisted into the military, meaning that if current trends continue, the IDF
would reach the 2015 target of 2,400 new haredi recruits.
Shas MK Nissim
Ze’ev, who was a vocal proponent of preserving the Tal Law before it was struck
down, welcomed both sets of the reports findings, and said that both increased
haredi participation in the army and increased Torah study were important for
the Jewish state.
“These findings show that more and more haredim are
participating in the security of the state and are taking up this yoke,” Ze’ev
told The Jerusalem Post. “But equally, I welcome the increase in Torah study
because this is essential for the state’s Jewish character and the Zionist
Ze’ev, who has argued that coercive measures taken to force
haredim into the army will have a detrimental effect on ultra-Orthodox
enlistment, also pointed to the fact that money for the different programs
established by the Tal Law to encourage haredi enlistment was only allocated in
2007, when just 290 ultra- Orthodox men were drafted into the IDF.
can’t expect a rise from basically 0% enlistment to 100% in such a small amount
of time,” the MK reasoned.
But Shahar Ilan, director of religious freedom
lobbying group Hiddush, poured cold water on such sentiments and argued that the
rate of increase in haredim indefinitely postponing their military service
through the “Torato Omunato” (Torah is his Trade) framework is far outstripping
the rate of increase in haredi military enlistment.
comptroller here has exposed the sad truth on the enlistment of the ultra-
Orthodox in the IDF,” Ilan told the Post. “Although there are some important
achievements, the rate of increase in draft evasion [through full-time yeshiva
study] is much bigger.”
“The conclusion is obvious: It is not possible to
continue with this such a slow rate of improvement, because the demographic
increase in the haredi population is growing much faster than its enlistment
Ilan added that in order to speed up ultra-Orthodox enlistment, a
quota should be set for military exemptions for full-time yeshiva students,
while everyone else would be drafted for either military or civilian
A spokeswoman for the draft reform lobbying group the Forum for
Equality in the Share of the Military Burden, said in response to the report’s
findings that “despite efforts of politicians to spin the increase in haredi
enlistment” as a significant achievement, the figures showed that unless a law
is passed mandating obligatory national service for all, Israeli society will
collapse under societal, economic and security pressures.
In its report,
the State Comptroller’s Office credited the two dedicated army tracks for
ultra-Orthodox soldiers – Shahar Kahol, which directs haredi recruit to hi-tech
roles, and the Netzah Yehuda combat battalion – for having helped achieve the
rise in haredi enlistment, which it said represented “an important trend that
needs to be encouraged and nurtured.”
However, the report also drew
attention to a parallel trend of an increase in the numbers and overall rate of
those eligible for army service in the haredi community deferring their military
service by remaining in full time yeshiva study under the Torato Omunato
framework, which was legally enshrined by the Tal Law.
Between 2003, when
the Tal Law came into effect, and 2010, the number of men eligible for military
service who deferred their enlistment into the IDF rose by 60 percent, from
39,000 in 2003 to 63,000 in 2010.
The report also pointed out that in
2005, 36% of Jewish men eligible for military service who were not drafted into
the IDF were those in the Torato Omunato framework.
Five years later,
that number had risen significantly, so that by 2010, 52% of Jewish males
eligible for military service who were not drafted into the IDF were
ultra-Orthodox who deferred their service through the Torato Omunato
A government decision in 2011, changing the procedures for
drafting those who had deferred their service, meant that the number of men
considered to be deferring military service under Torato Omunato was reduced by
10,000. Therefore, as of 2011, there were 54,000 men who were in full time
yeshiva study under the Torato Omunato framework.
Of the total number of
haredi men eligible for IDF service in 2010 and 2011 respectively, 13% enlisted
in 2010 and 16% enlisted in 2011.
The percentage of all Jewish men
enlisting into the IDF in 2010 was 75%.
In addition to IDF service, 1,089
haredi men, representing 13% of those eligible for military service in 2011,
served in national or civilian service, alongside 1,282 haredim who enlisted in
the IDF, bringing the total percentage of haredim doing some form of military
and national service to approximately 28% of the possible total.