Nahal Haredi recruits US, European youth

Battalion to launch international advertising campaign in Jewish newspapers.

nahal haredi 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
nahal haredi 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Nahal Haredi plans to launch an advertising campaign in Jewish newspapers in the United States and Europe in coming weeks to attract new recruits. OC Manpower Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern backs the recruiting efforts, according to Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow, director of the Nahal Haredi Organization. Nahal Haredi was established eight years ago as a single company. Today it is a full battalion - called Netzah Yehuda - with three companies and an elite antiterrorism squad under the command of Lt.-Col. Itzik Gai. It belongs to the Kfir Brigade and is based in the Jordan Valley. Most of the battalion's 650 soldiers are recruited in Israel and come from from a haredi or national religious background. For various reasons, they chose not to continue their yeshiva learning and enlisted. After completing their service, Nahal Haredi helps them complete their matriculation and pre-college studies, study for a profession or return to yeshiva. The Nahal Haredi Organization facilitates the enlisting process for haredi youth from abroad who come to Israel to serve in the IDF for just under a year in the Mahal program. The battalion has close to 100 Mahal soldiers, including 40 from France. Recruits from the US face different challenges than their Israeli counterparts, but there are similarities, Klebanow said. "In America they don't have the same issues like Israelis," he said, "but there are some that fall between the cracks and they don't want to go to university and they don't want to go to yeshiva. Nahal Haredi offers them an opportunity to serve in the IDF with a kosher stamp on their service." Religion is strictly adhered to in the battalion and female soldiers are not allowed to serve on the base. "This is an opportunity for the boys to build themselves and grow closer to Israel," Klebanow said. He said a large percentage of the soldiers from overseas end up making aliya, but even if they don't stay in Israel, "they are different kids after their military service, and they are not only more mature, but they are also now attached to Israel."