I think the key issues are the mechinot (prepartory programs) and motivation. One cannot say enough about how wonderful the mechinot are, the kids get a year to learn purely for the sake of learning (l'shma) without the pressure of tests and bagriyot for the first time in their lives. Young men grow and mature, learn to live away from home and are much more mature and serious than their peers who go in straight from high school. What's less known is that the mechinot aren't only for religous kids, there are also purely secular and mixed secular/religious mechinot so everyone (girls and boys) can benefit from the program. Religous families (even the left wing minority like myself) tend to have a strong commitment to Klal Yisrael and not just on their own personal needs so it's not surprising that religous youth are now over represented in combat units. I encourage all of my kids to "significant" service in the army (combat units if medical conditions permit - other important units if not) and that's simply the norm in the knitted kippa world. The mechinot add additional motivation by giving the kids a strong grounding in the love of Land and Jewish histor and Zionist thought.
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Gaza education ministry shuts 2 Shejaiyeh schools citing fear of Israeli artillery fire (Haaretz)
from the article: Sharp rise in number of religious IDF officers