IDF plans massive haredi recruitment

Exclusive: Army to draft 60% of ultra-orthodox boys aged 18 by 2020.

By
May 31, 2010 03:21
2 minute read.
tivon, golan, ashkenazy, 298 gpo

tivon, golan, ashkenazy,. (photo credit: IDF)

 
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Facing dwindling draft numbers and a shortage of 10,000 soldiers, the IDF Manpower Division has drawn up a plan to significantly increase the number of ultra-Orthodox soldiers, to more than 50 percent of the haredi boys who turn 18 in 2020.

The revolutionary plan, formulated by OC Manpower Division Maj.-Gen. Avi Zamir and approved by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, was presented early this month to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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The first stage of the plan will be to double the number of haredim serving in the military by 2012. Currently, approximately 1,000 haredim serve in the Nahal Haredi Battalion, also called Netzah Yehuda, as well as in technical positions in the air force and Military Intelligence.

The second phase of the plan calls for recruiting close to 60% of 18-year-old haredim each year from 2020. The haredim will have the option of serving in a national service position instead of the military.

Haredim have been exempt from military service since the establishment of the state in 1948, when prime minister David Ben-Gurion gave several hundred yeshiva students an exemption. The number of such yeshiva students has multiplied over the years and is estimated today at around 60,000 between the ages of 18 and 41, of whom over 5,000 were exempted in 2009, according to the IDF.

To attract haredim, the IDF has created a number of programs that integrate ultra-Orthodox lifestyle with military service. In the IAF, for example, soldiers are provided glatt kosher food and are allowed time during the day to study and pray.

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“This will have to be a national effort,” a top IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “Our goal is, by 2020, to draft somewhere between 50 and 60% of 18-year-old haredim.”

The IDF, the officer said, was currently lacking 10,000 soldiers due to dwindling draft numbers, with close to 25% of young men not enlisting – some dodging the draft, and others not serving due to religious and medical exemptions.

“There is no question that the lack of soldiers harms the IDF and its ability to carry out its missions,” the officer said. “The number of [required] missions has remained the same but the number of soldiers has dramatically declined.”

One of the ideas the Manpower Division discussed with Netanyahu is changing the system under which haredim receive National Insurance Institute payments, and providing them with the money as salaries in the army.

The IDF has set 2020 as its target date due to an understanding that getting the haredim to enlist into the military is a long-term process that requires political, social and legislative reforms.

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