Around 400 young men enlisted to haredi IDF tracks on Thursday and were welcomed
to the army by a gaggle of MKs, including Kadima leader and former defense
minister and IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz.
Of the new recruits, who
arrived at the IDF induction center at the Tel Hashomer military base,
approximately 300 joined the Netzah Yehuda battalion for haredi soldiers, while
around 100 enlisted to the IDF’s Shahar program, which places haredi recruits in
technological units in the air force and navy.
Although the IDF and
several MKs declared that the 400 new recruits were haredi, doubts were raised
as to the true societal identification of the new conscripts.
who were seen arriving at the induction center were noticeable for the diversity
of their attire, which was not in keeping with the general haredi standard of
black suits and white shirts.
MK Mordechai Yogev of Bayit Yehudi admitted
that a large contingent of the recruits was not from the “haredi
“To tell the truth, not all recruits are from the haredi
mainstream, especially those enlisting to the Nahal Haredi,” Yogev told The
“The recruits to Shahar are more from the
However, they are more mature recruits, around the age of 22,
married, and have spent a considerable amount of years in yeshiva.”
said that according to his estimates, 50 percent of recruits to Netzah Yehuda
were haredi, with others coming from “other ends of the scale.”
marginal youth; that’s correct. But the army is suitable for them as a
framework, and we should encourage this,” the MK said, adding that he believed
about 40% of the recruits to Nahal Haredi were from the “hardal” conservative
MK Omer Bar-Lev of Labor, the chairman of the
Knesset Subcommittee for Human Resources in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee, insisted that haredi enlistment was on the rise and said that
2,000 haredi men were expected to enlist in 2013, up from 1,500 in
Bar-Lev also acknowledged that some of the recruits were not from
the haredi mainstream, noting that that a proportion of them fell into the
category known as “youth who have been left behind,” that is, who have not
succeeded in the yeshiva environment.
Mofaz reiterated his opinion that
the IDF was in need of haredi manpower and that there is substantive service
available for haredi recruits.
“Despite claims to the contrary, the IDF
needs haredi recruits, full stop, and so we need to draft them,” the Kadima
Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman said that the identity of the
recruits should not be determined on the basis of their outward appearance. He
noted that the MKs met with the new recruits in a private meeting where they
described themselves as God-fearing but were not able to learn in yeshiva all
day and so had decided to enlist.
Lipman added that for more mainstream
haredi youth, new programs are being put in place, such as a hesder yeshiva for
haredim to allow those who are in full-time study to continue with their studies
The MKs also addressed the Peri bill on haredi enlistment
currently making its way through the legislative process.
Yogev told the
Post that he believed there was a decline in the number of haredim enlisting
because of the hostile atmosphere that has been generated by “coercive” clauses
in the new legislation. He was referring to stipulations in the bill that those
refusing to serve be subject to imprisonment, like all other Jewish
Yogev said such proposals were damaging the cause of increasing
There has been a recent spate of attacks against
religious soldiers who have entered haredi neighborhoods, a phenomenon
attributed to a vigorous campaign of delegitimization against haredi men
enlisting in the IDF.
“There is a vocal minority that thinks that it is
possible to change things by coercion. You can’t change things like this, and
such efforts will only cause damage. I hope this minority will understand this
and that together we will bring a law that increases trust and strengthens the
process of haredi enlistment,” Yogev said.
Lipman labelled Bayit Yehudi’s
attacks against the Peri bill as “political” in nature. He pointed out that he
was, however, not in favor of the clauses providing for criminal sanctions
against those refusing to enlist, but said that these provisions had been
impossible to avoid based on advice from legal advisers from the Justice
“I agree 100% that [these clauses] are not helpful,” Lipman
said, and noted that there may be some changes made to the bill by the Special
Knesset Committee currently reviewing the legislation.
“At the same time,
we’re trying to go out of our way to accommodate haredi requirements.
process of integration will take time; it won’t happen overnight. It will take
two generations before it becomes more of a mainstream idea. We have to be
patient, but we also have to start the process, and the only way to start the
process is through a law that actually makes something happen.”