IDF trains haredi men for classic female role

Haredi soldiers will fill the function of "conditions of service" NCOs in haredi units to avoid intimacy with female soldiers.

By JONAH MANDEL
March 13, 2011 02:59
2 minute read.
NETZAH YEHUDA Battalion commander Lt.-Col. Dror Spiegel (left) talks to one of his company commander

Haredi Soldiers 311. (photo credit: YAAKOV KATZ)

 
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The IDF completed on Thursday the first-ever training of haredi soldiers who will now begin to fill the function of “conditions of service” non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in haredi units.

Part of a standard military unit is the presence of a soldier, usually female, who is trained to fill a function similar to that of a social worker.

They deal with a variety of welfare-related issues, such as enabling soldiers to take leaves of absence to work and support their families or referring those in need to mental care professionals; but they also can lend a sympathetic ear and shoulder when necessary.

The intimacy of such encounters between a soldier and NCOs, conducted in privacy and in many cases personally revealing, would prevent a haredi soldier from being able to have such an exchange with a female soldier.

Up to this point, haredi soldiers from within the two units involved – the air force’s Blue Dawn program, which trains haredi men as airplane mechanics and technicians, and the Netzah Yehuda Battalion – formerly known as Nahal Haredi – have served in such functions without any formal training.

“But they didn’t have the professional tools to carry out the sensitive task,” a senior officer from the IDF’s Manpower Division told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

So the army decided to train 15 haredi soldiers already serving in the IDF to be professional “conditions of service” NCOs, in a six-week course taught by men only that ended on Thursday.


“These NCOs understand the needs of the haredi soldiers and their frames of reference, and can provide the soldiers with the help they need,” the officer said.

The participants in the course, which was held according to the army’s standards, achieved excellent grades and were very satisfied with the training they received, as well as with the new function they were about to begin filling, the officer continued. He said that another such course would probably take place in three or four months.

The idea of training haredi soldiers for the position is part of the military’s general attempt to adapt to the sensitivities and needs of the ultra-Orthodox population that wishes to enlist, the officer said. This attitude is part of what is constantly raising the numbers of haredim in the IDF.

“The army doesn’t want to turn them into something they are not. But it is able to accommodate itself to the haredi lifestyle,” he said.

“And that is the secret to the change in their attitude to the army.”

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