Ultra-Orthodox IDF Draft - Controversial and Costly

IDF drafted 1,288 Haredi soldiers in 2011, which cost the state about NIS 90 million.

An overlooked issue in the debate over drafting ultra-Orthodox men has been the cost - and it's a hefty one relative to other soldiers.

The Israel Defense Forces drafted 1,288 Haredi soldiers in 2011. Their cost to the state came to NIS 90 million that year, of which NIS 70 million went on salary.

The cost of maintaining a regular soldier, religiously observant or not (but not Haredi), is six to seven times less, according to the data.

The cost of a "hayal boded", a lone soldier, is NIS 5,400 to 5,800 a month, according to the army and Knesset Research and Information Center.

In a recent study on Haredi recruitment, the Knesset center found that 40% of the money was used for family support payments, which the IDF sometimes approves for married soldiers doing their compulsory service. Payments are based on criteria such as family income and car ownership.

IDF sources said the cost of conscripting the 1,288 ultra-Orthodox soldiers was less, some NIS 64,800 a year. But this is still high.

According to the Knesset report, the reason for the high costs for Haredi draftees is the IDF's special measures for them, such as strict kashrut enforcement and the various family support payments. Most of these soldiers are married, something quite uncommon among other new recruits.

Family payments for a new Haredi soldier are paid into his wife's bank account. If there are no children, his wife receives NIS 3,218 a month. Other conscripts in compulsory service receive well under NIS 1,000 a month, based on rank, length of service and position.

On the Personnel Directorate's website, the IDF provides an explanation (in Hebrew) regarding support for married soldiers. For example, soldiers who marry during their service are entitled to a 10-day honeymoon. They also get one month pay - a private's salary - as a gift.

Married soldiers are entitled to a few hundred shekels a month if they rent an apartment. A birth entitles them to vacation and a grant. They also receive gifts at holiday time.

Not all funds for supporting ultra-Orthodox soldiers come from the Defense Ministry's budget. The Finance Ministry provides the IDF with an additional NIS 2,500 a month for each Haredi soldier, almost half the cost of supporting them.

IDF figures show 54,000 men of enlistment age, 18 to 28, who have not served.

Ultra-Orthodox soldiers in a class within the framework of Shahar, Nov. 11, 2010.
Ofer Vaknin