New Army Program Aims to Recruit Haredi Women to IDF

The recruits are to be trained as computer programmers in Military Intelligence and separated from male soldiers.

The IDF has launched an experimental project to recruit ultra-Orthodox women for the first time, tailoring the service to their way of life and providing them with a sought after profession. The project's success is not yet clear.

haredi - Tess Scheflan (Archive) - Sept 3 2010
Tess Scheflan

The army recruited a few dozen ultra-Orthodox women some two months ago to be trained as computer programmers in Military Intelligence. They will serve in teams with women commanders and be separated from males.

The IDF has launched several projects over the past three years to draft ultra-Orthodox men, mainly for technological positions in the Air Force, Military Intelligence and teleprocessing. The number of ultra-Orthodox recruits has recently exceeded 1,000.

The men's service programs were created in cooperation with senior Haredi rabbis for married men of over 20 who graduated from yeshivas and want to join the workforce.

The Haredi recruits' commanders are all men, they receive kosher food approved by Haredi rabbis and their schedule enables prayers, daily studies and going home to their families on evenings and weekends.

The Haredi women's draft is supervised by the chief of staff's adviser for women's affairs and their service is tailored for married women, consisting of regular schedules and enabling maternity leave when required.

The program must overcome the taboo on military service in the ultra-Orthodox community. Haredi women have already been exempted from service at 18 for religious and conscientious reasons, while men are required by law to join the army as soon as they leave the yeshiva.

IDF sources say the women's program has chances of being a success among young Haredi women, many of whom are their family's sole breadwinner. The military service provides them with a profession and monthly wages, enabling them to feed their family during their service and training.

The Haredi men's requirements to serve in separate teams with male-only commanders and with no women in the room constitute an obstacle to IDF policy, as it prevents women from serving as commanders in such teams and hinders their promotion.

Some women officers in Military Intelligence have already made complaints to this effect.

Until now the Finance Ministry has funded the project to recruit ultra-Orthodox men and women, hoping army service will pay off with their integration into the general labor market.