Nahal Haredi soldiers demand IDF reserve duty

Very few of the 1,400 Nahal Haredi soldiers who are eligible to do reserve duty have been called up.

nahal haredi 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
nahal haredi 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A group of about 100 Nahal Haredi infantrymen who have completed their mandatory army service, unhappy that they have not yet been summoned for reserve duty, sent a letter to the IDF on Sunday demanding that they be called up immediately. "We want to serve our country," said Haim Galbstein, who finished his active duty in 2004 and has yet to receive a call to perform reserve duty. "I am not learning in yeshiva right now so I have an obligation to defend my people." Galbstein said that for him military service was a mitzva. "I must not stand by idly and watch while my brothers and sisters are in danger," he said. The soldiers' initiative comes a day after Defense Minister Ehud Barak complained "the IDF is gradually turning into an army of only half the people" and that those who did serve were being made to feel like "suckers." The initiative also comes just over a week after the IDF released data showing that one out of four Jewish Israelis born in 1989 evaded this summer's draft by obtaining medical or religious exemptions or because they had a criminal record or lived overseas. Eleven percent were haredim whose Torah studies exempted them from military service. The Hahal Haredi infantry unit, established seven years ago, provides young men from ultra-Orthodox backgrounds an opportunity to perform army service in a religious, male-only environment. The vast majority of haredi young men choose to indefinitely delay their army service while they devote themselves to Torah study. Many oppose army service not only because it precludes Torah study but also because of the coed arrangements. A minority oppose army service because they believe it is forbidden to use force against non-Jews before the coming of the Messiah. Nevertheless, despite social pressure not to join the IDF, 2,000 Nahal Haredi soldiers have served so far, most in combat positions in the Jordan Valley Like orthodox Zionist soldiers who enlist within the framework of pre-military academies and hesder yeshivot, Nahal Haredi soldiers tend to be enthusiastic about their army service and to see it as a mitzva. There are 1,400 Nahal Haredi soldiers who have completed a two-year army stint and who are eligible to do reserve duty. However, very few have been called up. Netzah Yehudah, the organization that runs the Nahal Haredi program, said, "We are in advanced talks with IDF officials to arrange for a special reserve brigade that could duplicate the religious environment that the Nahal Haredi soldiers have grown accustomed to. "And, of course, we are very proud of our soldiers' patriotism." The IDF said Netzah Yehuda soldiers were an integral part of the IDF's regular and reserve combat forces. Integrating them in the reserve forces is being made possible as their numbers grow. The IDF is currently creating an organic framework for them."