A Shocking Death Sparks Fierce Debate About Israel's Haredi Battalion

Netzah Yehuda is a special battalion of ultra-Orthodox soldiers. Following the latest in a series of violent incidents against Palestinians, calls are growing to rethink its existence – and Haredi deployment in general

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An ultra-Orthodox man standing by the recruitment office of the IDF in Jerusalem, December 2, 2019.
An ultra-Orthodox man standing by the recruitment office of the IDF in Jerusalem, December 2, 2019.
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

Serving in the Israeli army changed Yossi Levi’s life.

“In ultra-Orthodox society, there simply weren’t options for young men like me who weren’t cut out for yeshiva,” says Levi, who was born and raised in a Haredi home in Jerusalem.

“Were it not for the army, I would have ended up on the streets.”

Only a tiny fraction of draft-age ultra-Orthodox Israeli men serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Among those who do, a significant share, like Levi, enlist in Netzah Yehuda, a special combat battalion stationed in the West Bank comprised exclusively of soldiers who are ultra-Orthodox or who grew up in Haredi homes.

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