Ultra-Orthodox soldiers in a class within the framework of Shahar, Nov. 11, 2010.
Ultra-Orthodox soldiers. The Knesset will have to decide on their compulsory induction into the IDF. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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Over the next few weeks, the Israel Defense Forces will send out draft notices to some 15,000 Haredi youths aged 17-19, requiring them to show up for interviews. The IDF does not intend on drafting them immediately, but simply means to have them follow the standard recruitment process required before military service. The regular enlistment process usually takes up to a year. The IDF has taken the step after the High Court of Justice invalidated the "Tal Law" governing the enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox. The change took effect in August.

At the same time that the army is requiring all Haredi men to enter the regular recruitment process, it is also continuing its preparations to establish a number of new battalions to accept Haredi men as combat soldiers, similar to the existing Netzah Yehuda "Nahal Haredi" battalion.

Senior IDF officers and Defense Ministry officials presented the plan to implement a Haredi draft on Sunday, at a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Barak will present the plan this morning to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The plan is an attempt to find a middle ground in the wake of the cancellation of the Tal Law, in the expectation that it will be only temporary and that after the coming elections and the establishment of a new government, there will be a serious attempt to legislate a new law governing Haredi draft deferrals, seeing as how the High Court threw out the old arrangements.

Once the Tal Law was invalidated, the general law governing military service and the draft came into effect for the ultra-Orthodox, who had traditionally received deferments while continuing to study in yeshivot. The new plan takes into account the High Court ruling on the matter, the IDF's manpower needs, the principle of equality of service and preparing Haredim for the world of the military. The plan applies in particular to two age groups - those who are now 17 and finishing the equivalent of 12th grade, and those who are 18 but whose deferments never took effect due to the invalidation of the Tal Law.

These two groups total about 15,000 men. A few hundred of the young men have already been invited for their interviews, and they will also be given their physical examinations and various other psychological and technical tests.

They will be handled by male-only staff. The IDF has decided - for now - not to take any steps concerning older Haredim, aged 19-23, who were previously granted deferments under the Tal Law.