IDF Rabbinate Creating New, Paid Positions for ultra-Orthodox Recruits

Army rabbis seek to recruit Haredim as kashrut supervisors, ritual scribes and burial experts, but critics within the defense establishment say high cost is unjustified, for these jobs won't provide recruits with skills needed for civilian profession.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Amos Harel
Amos Harel

In advance of the possibility that yeshiva students will be required to do service in the Israel Defense Forces, the military rabbinate is interested in bringing ultra-Orthodox recruits into its ranks. In a plan formulated recently at the rabbinate, there is a formula for appealing to potential Haredi recruits, offering them positions serving as army kashrut supervisors, ritual scribes and in the unit for identifying the dead. Military sources have expressed criticism of the plan, arguing that there is no reason to take ultra-Orthodox men at a high budgetary cost into positions that will not provide them with a profession from which they will be able to benefit in civilian life. The IDF Spokesman has said that thus far, the enlistment of only a few Orthodox soldiers in this framework has been approved.

The document, of which a copy was obtained by Haaretz, indicates that the military rabbinate wishes to institute the framework of Shahar – the acronym for the Haredi service program in the IDF – a rabbinical service track, parallel to the Shahar tracks in the air force, the intelligence division at the General Staff and in other branches of the military. In the Shahar framework, married ultra-Orthodox men aged 22 and up serve for a period of a year and a half, receive financial aid from the army (about NIS 5,000 per month) from the start of their compulsory service, and generally sign up for service in the professional army.

Despite the high cost of the program, both the IDF and the Finance Ministry support its expansion because it enables ultra-Orthodox men to serve in technological and logistical positions that are useful to the army and also enable the men to enter civilian life with a profession for which there is demand, such as in computer programming. However, the military rabbinate is interested in expanding the program to positions from the area of religion.

The rabbinate promises candidates they will participate in special basic training for observers of the Sabbath and the Commandments, they will sleep at home throughout the period of their service except during basic training, they will be given one day a month to devote to Torah study and they will receive help entering the civilian job market after completing their service.

The military rabbinate is recruiting into its ranks a small number of candidates for military service in the framework of the Shahar program," an IDF spokesman said in response to questions about the program. "These candidates will be assigned during the coming year to special Torah-related positions.

Military sources have clarified that the program will take in only five to seven soldiers a year. However, it appears that the rabbinate is getting ready to increase the number, if indeed there turns out to be a change in the extent of the induction of ultra-Orthodox men into the army as a whole.

Haredi man at an IDF recruitment center.Credit: Alex Levac

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