Bennett praises haredi civilian service enlistment

Economy and Trade Minister addresses 63 new recruits amid controversy over new law for obligatory haredi service.

June 11, 2013 20:58
1 minute read.
National service question and answer session with Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett.

Bennett at haredi enlistment 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Dozens of haredi recruits enlisted into the civilian service program, an alternative to military service, on Tuesday in Jerusalem, although some expressed concern regarding a new law for obligatory national service for ultra-Orthodox men during a question and answer session with Minister for Economy and Trade Naftali Bennett.

The Bayit Yehudi leader, who also has oversight over the civilian service program, addressed the 63 new recruits, praising them for their decision to join up.

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He also said that it was regrettable that a hostile atmosphere had arisen in recent months and added that he was committed to dialogue and mutual understanding.

When opening up the floor for questions however, several new recruits questioned Bennett’s policies and the importance he ascribed to Torah study.

The minister insisted that he and the new government valued Torah and pointed to the fact the current bill on haredi enlistment formally recognizes Torah study as a national value.

I need you to believe us, believe me, that we want to receive no less than we are giving in this process," said Bennett. "We are the Jewish people in the state and the people will only survive by integrating different factors: one is that of Torah, another is that of security and the third, unity."

He also said that Israeli society could learn from the dedication of the ultra-Orthodox community and its "self-sacrifice and devotion to its ideals and faith."

Bennett also addressed the issue of Haredi integration into the work force and said that discrimination and stigmas were a barrier preventing skilled haredi men from entering the job market.

He added however, that because the haredi population was growing so rapidly, Israeli society needs to integrate the community into both military service and the work force.

The civilian service program, a remnant of the Tal Law era, is currently a voluntary program. Legislation going through the Knesset at present would however make national service mandatory for haredi men and would also give the IDF first option on all conscripts, with those not accepted to military service then required to join the civilian service program.

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