170 Hareidi Soldiers Sworn In Amid Protests

February 7, 2014  

On Thursday, as thousands of hareidim protested over the freezing of funding for all yeshivas, 170 new hareidi soldiers were sworn in at an IDF base in the Jordan Valley.

The new soldiers will undergo training and join the Nahal Hareidi, the IDF’s hareidi combat battalion.

The new recruits make up the largest group to date of hareidi soldiers to enlist in the army.

Over the past year, a sharp rise was recorded in the number of the brigade’s enlisting soldiers. 286 soldiers enlisted to the unit in November, a 70% increase compared to the previous November. In annual totals, Nahal Hareidi, also known at Battalion 97, enlisted 754 soldiers, a 50% rise from 2012.

The Nahal Hareidi has won several prizes in recent months. It won the IDF Department of Technology and Logistics’ Award in November, and a month later made IDF history by winning the Chief of Staff’s Prize for the first time.

The new soldiers join the IDF as the issue of hareidi army enlistment once again becomes a point of contention.

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party demands a mandatory draft for all hareidim, ordered the retrospective freezing of funding for all yeshivas.

Lapid’s decision came following a Supreme Court ruling Tuesday, stating that the government should stop funding yeshivas with 18-20 year-old students who received draft calls and did not enlist. The ruling came despite Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s orders to defer such steps until new laws on the issue are passed in the coming weeks.

The hareidim responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling with protests, and held another violent protest on Thursday in response to Lapid’s decision.

MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), whose Shaked Committee is expected to finish drafting a new law on hareidi enlistment in the coming weeks, has said the Court’s ruling is meaningless as the yeshivas already received funding for February, and the new law should be ready in time for funding in March.

Hareidi MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) on Wednesday criticized the Supreme Court ruling, saying it constituted a “declaration of war” against the hareidi public.

MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) decried the “ongoing campaign of persecution. The government is attacking everything connected to religion or to the Torah world,” he charged.

Rabbi Yitzchak Bar-Chaim of the Nahal Hareidi Foundation commented on the swearing in of 170 new soldiers amid protests and said, “These two conflicting events, the demonstrations on the one hand and the swearing-in ceremony of the soldiers on the other, best illustrate what we and the military’s top brass have been saying for the past year. If you turn the issue of hareidi enlistment into a religious war, then no hareidim will enlist, and there will be demonstrations. But if there is dialogue and joint building of new enlistment systems, we will see great numbers of young hareidi recruits.”

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