The overwhelming majority of haredi Jews in Israel receive an exemption from army service.
By BEN HARMTAN
Shifting demographics are leading the army into a manpower crisis, and require a more hard-line approach to draft-dodging, the head of the IDF’s human resources bureau told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.Brig.-Gen. Orna Barbivai, 48, one of only three women to hold that rank in the IDF, said that Israel now had less soldiers per capita than at any time in the nation’s short history, and that “demographic threats” to the IDF’s manpower base, together with a lack of new waves of immigration, meant the army must take a firmer stance against draft-dodging.She explained to the Post that by “demographic challenges” she was referring at least in part to haredim, saying the sector’s far higher birthrate compared to the secular community “absolutely” was a major factor contributing to the lower percentage of draft age Israelis enlisting in the IDF.The overwhelming majority of haredi Jews in Israel receive an exemption from army service, and their birth rate is between two and three times that of the secular population.Because of this phenomenon, Barbivai said, “We cannot lend our hand to draft-dodging in any way whatsoever. We must work in order to enlist everybody who is eligible, not only in keeping with Israeli law, but also with our national morals.”Barbivai praised the IDF’s efforts to counter the phenomenon of young girls claiming to be religious to get out of service. She said that since investigations into such claims were launched in late 2008, hundreds of young girls have been caught and a total of 1,200 have recanted on their claims of piety.The girls do not face legal charges, rather the army tries to find an optimal way for them to serve, she added.AdvertisementBarbivai, a mother of three, said “there is no reason that my daughtersare required to do national service and someone else’s aren’t.”Speaking ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, Barbivai saidthe days when women were seen mainly as clerks or secretaries in theIDF were long gone, and that nowadays some 90% of roles in the army areopen to women, as opposed to only 73% just 15 years ago.
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