Twenty-one haredi paratroopers completed their first jump on Wednesday after completing the parachute course at Palmahim Air Base near Rishon Lezion.
The soldiers are members of the second draft cycle of the haredi Hetz unit in the 202nd Battalion of the Paratroop Brigade.
Rabbis from the Netzah Yehuda Foundation, who accompanied the paratroopers, said that “with all the grueling training the soldiers underwent, they kept to their strict prayer schedule and Torah study. It goes without saying, of course, that the new platoon observes Halacha strictly. They are busy with what is called a ‘drop’ from the sky, but we see them as actually ‘going up’ spiritually.”
Soldiers in the unit serve a total of 32 months – two years of military service and eight months afterward in various studies, including high school matriculation courses, vocational training and similar options.
They undergo intensive physical training including in close quarter hand-to-hand combat and urban warfare.
They go through all basic training for combat soldiers including a 40-kilometer march and spend weeks learning survival, navigation and camouflage skills and the in parachute course where they jump in all possible scenarios, including over water, at heights that can range from 1,200 feet to 12,000 feet.
Reforms passed in the Knesset in 2014 that aimed to gradually increase ultra-Orthodox recruitment have been met with stiff opposition from many in the haredi community.
Nonetheless, according to data the army released on Wednesday, there are some 50,000 ultra-Orthodox men in the military.
On June 27, President Reuven Rivlin met with soldiers of the Netzah Yehuda Battalion at the Binyamin Regional Brigade’s headquarters in the West Bank, following several acts of violence against haredi soldiers by members of their own community.
Rivlin told the men that “it can’t be that in the State of Israel an IDF soldier will go for mincha [afternoon prayers] in a synagogue and be attacked” while the same soldiers are “awake at night in ambushes and checkpoints, fighting against terrorists and enemies.
“It will not happen. We mustn’t generalize, and while it is clear to me that the haredi public condemns this violence, we are not going to allow harming you and other soldiers to pass quietly.”