Draft of haredim gains momentum within community
Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest against proposals for joining the IDF. (Photo: Oren Ben Hakoon)

In most cases, these are students from the Sephardi yeshivot, who are in any case better integrated into the general Israeli society.

By Hanan Greenwood
March 29, 2024

(JNS) — A major shift in ultra-Orthodox Israelis’ attitude towards military service could be unfolding behind the scenes in some parts of the community. 

While politicians are busy with proposals that are perceived by the various parties as populist and unrealistic, major haredi power brokers have been examining ways to seize on the new solidarity expressed by many yeshivah students in the wake of the war, possibly creating the necessary conditions for having those who no longer study full-time to join the IDF.

While in the ultra-Orthodox world, many are trying to create a unified front outwardly regarding the opposition to the draft, in practice there are those who are considering it positively, especially among younger haredim.

In most cases, these are students from the Sephardi yeshivot, who are in any case better integrated into the general Israeli society and feel ready for a change, although no concrete steps have been taken to have them join the IDF.

In recent days, quite a few yeshivah heads have come to the home of the head of the Slabodka yeshivah of Bnei Brak and the de facto leader the leader of the non-chassidic ultra-Orthodox community, telling him about their views on the issue of ultra-Orthodox conscription. There is a broad consensus regarding the understanding that those who study Torah will remain in yeshivah, but the question remains as to what happens to those who have dropped out or failed to engage in study. The heads of the various parties are also keeping close contact with various figures in the rabbi’s orbit.

Meanwhile, Netzach Yehuda, an organization that has championed recruitment to the IDF for years, said that in recent weeks it has passed on the names of more than 2,000 potential recruits from ultra-Orthodox society, which it received from ultra-Orthodox soldiers who enlisted.

“It’s ridiculous that they’re trying to let things remain as they were,” says Netzach Yehuda CEO Yossi Levi regarding various Knesset proposals. He believes that the attempt to raise the exemption age from 26 to 35 and introduce quotas stems from a desire to please Israeli society, but it is ineffective and mainly ignores the fact that there is a significant percentage of the ultra-Orthodox public that wants to enlist but is held back by the ultra-Orthodox leadership.

Levi said, “The State of Israel invested 1.7 billion shekels ($460,000) in integrating the ultra-Orthodox into academia, but nothing in a program to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into the IDF. The result is that even those suitable for the draft are not directed towards it at all. This must change.”

Netzach Yehuda has prepared a plan for haredi conscription, published here for the first time, in which it details the way to recruit many ultra-Orthodox men into the IDF.

The plan calls for recruitment targets without criminal sanctions, but rather through various incentives such as subsidized studies and prioritization when purchasing an apartment. Among other things, it is proposed to develop a five-year government program that will include clear recruitment goals and to appoint a brigadier general rank adviser on ultra-Orthodox affairs to the IDF chief of staff.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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