19 Kollel students join Traffic Police in pilot project

Haredi men join police rather than military for mandatory service; ‘The police sees great importance in growing closer to haredi society.’

By JONAH MANDEL
June 13, 2011 02:25
3 minute read.
Kollel policemen in training

Kollel Policemen 311. (photo credit: Courtesy Traffic Police)

 
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Up to a month ago, these young haredi men were studying the Talmud. Now, they are engrossed in traffic laws and procedures, as part of their five weeks of training for their new positions in the Traffic Police.

Kollel students – 19 – have for the first time ever been recruited to the police for mandatory service, instead of a military stint.

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The shortened IDF service for haredi men wishing to leave their yeshiva, lasting between 16 and 24 months and tailored to suit ultra-Orthodox religious and cultural sensitivities, served as a model for the police program.

At the end of their training, the 19 haredim will man the phones of the Traffic Police appeals center, located in the capital.

Following their mandatory service, they will be able to join the general labor force. Those who are suitable might have the option to stay on the force; some have already expressed an interest to do so, as head of the Traffic Police planning and development division Alex Perelman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

To Perelman, who was one of the figures instrumental in implementing the program in the police, it is a crucial opportunity for haredi society and the police to gain much needed proximity to one another.

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“The police sees great importance in growing closer to the haredi society and becoming part of it,” he said. “One of the ways to do so is by simply enlisting them to serve in the organization, like we have members of all other groups in Israeli society.”

Asst.-Cmdr. Bruno Stein, head of the Traffic Police, said in a statement that he considered the project a harbinger, and expressed hope that it would galvanize more haredim to join the police in its wideranging activities, and serve as “a genuine bridge” between the police and this populace.

Animosity has been known to break out between parts of the haredi society and police over issues such as opening businesses and public parking lots on Shabbat, alleged desecrations of ancient graves, and arrests of haredim, who have repeatedly claimed police brutality against them.

So how are the former yeshiva students, who do not necessarily have driver licenses or an acquaintance with law enforcement, faring with the new subject material? “These are highly motivated men, with excellent learning skills, mastering fields they were never exposed to,” said Perelman, noting that beyond the specifics of the traffic regulations, the recruits were also learning about the police at whole.

“They are putting a lot of effort into it, and it’s yielding excellent results.”

The 19 haredim, aged 21 to 29 and almost all of them fathers, will serve at headquarters rather than as regular traffic policemen, in part to avoid clashes with their lifestyle, such as the need to serve shifts during Shabbat. In addition, this way it is easier to provide them with special kosher food, and to free them at prayer times – as well as for a break for a daily Talmud lesson. “In the field, it becomes more complicated,” explained Perelman, who didn't rule out that in the future such positions would be open to haredi policemen.

A haredi man recruited to the police manpower division is mediating between the recruits, hailing from various parts of the haredi world, and the police force, and Perelman said that the “recruiter” is being approached by many haredi institutions interested in the unique opportunity to join the force. Needless to say, the program has the approval of the young men’s rabbis.

Perelman stressed that the police was not competing with the world of yeshivot.

“Whoever made the decision to leave the yeshiva and enlist is more than welcome, we are not looking for those who want to stay and study,” he said.

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