(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A new apartment was inaugurated for Haredi lone soldiers in Jerusalem last week just days after the Knesset passed a controversial bill that would draft ultra-Orthodox men into the army.
The new freshly-renovated apartment in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood is one of a network of residences operated by the Nahal Haredi Organization which offers seventeen Haredi lone soldiers a place to call home during their military service.
There are some 3,000 Haredi soldiers in the IDF and many are shunned and disowned by their families and communities for serving in the military.
The ceremony was attended by Deputy Minister Michael Oren, Jerusalem municipal council and mayoral candidate Moshe Leon, representatives of the Ministry of Defense, philanthropist David Hager, rabbis of Nahal Haredi Organization, and founder of the Nahal Haredi Brigadier General (Res.) Yehudah Duvdevani.
“Many Haredi young men who enlist in the army are no longer welcome in their homes,” said a spokesperson for the Nahal Haredi Organization. “At times, the IDF doesn’t officially acknowledge these soldiers as ‘lone soldiers’ because they physically have a family in Israel and may even keep slightly in touch, even if the only communication is a rare phone call between the soldier and his parents. These young people need a place to call home during army leave.”
The spokesperson emphasized that “Each time there’s a new draft, there are dozens of Haredi lone soldiers who are unable to return home for a variety of reasons, and they need a solution. The problem is exacerbated by the incitement and violence targeting Haredi soldiers, which causes many soldiers to avoid going home, and families to break contact with their sons who serve in the army,” adding that the organization is “overjoyed to be able to grant these soldiers a warm, comfortable home where they can maintain their Haredi lifestyle and values.”
Reforms passed in the Knesset in 2014 which aimed to gradually increase ultra-Orthodox recruitment has been met with stiff opposition from many in that religious community which has historically been exempt from military service, and there have been regular demonstrations against the draft.
Nonetheless according to Brigadier General Eran Shani, head of the IDF Human Resource Planning and Management Division, there continues to be an increase in Haredim who serve in the IDF.
“There is an upward trend in the recruitment of Haredi soldiers from year to year, while in this enlistment year about 3,100 Haredi soldiers are anticipated to enlist, after 2,850 were recruited in the enlistment year 2016,” he said in May.
Founder of Nahal Haredi Brigadier General (Res.) Yehuda Duvdevani addressed the public debate regarding the highly-contested Draft law, calling on all ultra-Orthodox to enlist.
“We want to see a boy who’s drafted into the army return home to his parents Haredi and with a vocation in hand,” he said. “A person who is learning for real should continue learning. We’re all for it. We were the first to say it at the very start, and today, even MKs from the opposition are repeating our message. But those who aren’t really learning – and there are more than a few – should enlist, be a mentch, start a family, and remain part of the Haredi sector while integrating positively into society with a profession.”
Deputy Minister Michael Oren congratulated Nahal Haredi Organization, saying that of the 7,000 lone soldiers from across the world, the Haredi lone are a significant portion.
“Twenty five percent of soldiers serving in Netzach Yehuda are lone soldiers, and it’s even harder to be a Haredi soldier with all the special needs that it entails. I think that a place like Nahal Haredi, which manifests such sensitivity, awareness, and care is a wonderful thing. This is particularly expressed in this building. As a former lone soldier myself, I could never have dreamed of a place like this.”
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