Ashkenazi asks hesder heads to mull IDF extension

Moves follows increased phenomenon of military draft dodging among eligible youth.

hesder soldier 88 (photo credit: )
hesder soldier 88
(photo credit: )
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi met with heads of the Hesder program Tuesday night and asked them to consider extending their students' military service in light of the increase in youth who are dodging the military draft. First established in 1953, the five-year Hesder program integrates yeshiva learning with 16 months of military service, mostly in combat units. Relations between the IDF and hesder yeshiva heads have been tense in recent years mainly due to the disengagement from Gaza as well as a plan by OC Human Resources Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern, who was also present at Tuesday's meeting, to integrate the students into regular combat platoons together with secular soldiers. Until last year, hesder students served in segregated units. IDF officers said that an additional eight months of service by hesder students would be a major boost for the IDF particularly at a time when enlistment numbers are dropping. "These are high quality and highly-motivated soldiers who can significantly contribute during their military service," one officer explained. "Increasing the service from 16 months to 24 months would make a huge difference." Ashkenazi and Stern also discussed the recent act of insubordination by a number of hesder soldiers who refused orders to participate in the evacuation of two families from the Hebron marketplace. One of the reasons behind Stern's decision to dissolve the segregated platoons was since with insubordination among religious youth a growing phenomenon, the IDF wanted to ensure that commanders wouldn't find themselves with entire units revolting, but only - in the worst case - a few soldiers.