Haredi Enlistment Falls Short of Government Targets

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A file photo shows an ultra-Orthodox soldier praying during a training exercise.Credit: IDF Spokesman’s Office

The number of ultra-Orthodox men enlisting in the military fell below government targets in the past year.

The law required the cabinet to set recruitment goals to both the IDF and national service.

The statistics for 2015 show the number of ultra-Orthodox men, known as Haredim, who enlisted in the IDF and national service was only 70 percent of the goal.

In the 2015 draft year, which ended in July 2016, the number of Haredim drafted was nine percent below target, and numbered – including immigrants –  2,475 people, shy of the 2,700 target. Only 728 Haredim volunteered for national service, less than half a target figure of 1,800.

The IDF said the goals were “challenging,” and that there was still a generally positive trend of increasing numbers of ultra-Orthodox youth being drafted each year.

“Since 2007 the number of Haredim enlisting in the military has grown nine-fold. Starting with the drafting of a few dozen Haredim, they numbers are now in the thousands. This is a rising trend, and it is the result of the spirit of Israeli society, and also of the good preparation by the army and the willingness to accept Haredim in the IDF,” a senior IDF officer told Haaretz.

Even though the overall trend is encouraging, the IDF is still finding it difficult to enlist single Haredi men into “regular” service, outside the special programs designed to accept married Haredim or those older than most conscripts, in the 22 to 28 age range.

The largest growth in the number of Haredim in the IDF is among the older group, with less growth among younger cohorts, who usually join combat units, the officer said. Next month, the IDF is planning a new company of Haredim in the Paratroop Brigade, and the IDF brass expects this to lead to more young people signing up to serve in combat units.

The national service authority says the main reason fewer Haredim have signed up is that the salaries offered are significantly lower than that earned by soldiers or to those in full time yeshiva study.

“We need to ask why there are 1,500 people today in civilian national service, and not why we are not meeting targets,” says Sar-Shalom Jerbi, director of the National Civilian Service Administration. He proposes lowering the minimum age for national service and raising the maximum age to 35. The Defense Ministry opposes some of the administration's proposals.

Haaretz has reported in the past that the government has examined the possibility of raising financial incentives to Haredi national service volunteers, in order to increase their numbers. But a source involved in the matter has told Haaretz that since these recommendations were released in April, no progress has been made in implementing the incentives, which included such benefits as financial aid for the purchase of a home.

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