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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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Israel’s Haredi Soldiers Take Their Spirit Into The Field

Soldiers of the Netzach Yehuda unit.

Soldiers of the Netzach Yehuda unit.

Serving in a combat unit also poses challenges to men raised in strictly observant communities, as they must perform missions and guard duty on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. But the battalion consults a rabbi who tries to minimize those occurrences, while Netzach Yehuda soldiers do what they can to perform rituals regardless of where they are.

“On Seder night there will be 100 soldiers, so 30 soldiers will be on guard duty,” said Eli Lax, who runs the nonprofit Coalition for the Torah-Observant Soldier. “But if they finish guarding at 10 or 11, they’ll start praying at 10 or 11 and have the Seder at 12.”

Moshe Lifshitz, a veteran of the battalion who now works with Pledanow, and who participated in the 60-mile hike and subsequent dance, loved Netzach Yehuda’s Jewish atmosphere.

“The spirit of the guys is very strong,” he said. “Shabbat there, you feel like a yeshiva.” He said that even though 20 or 30 percent of the battalion is Modern Orthodox rather than haredi, “You see everyone together.”

While most men are required to serve in the IDF for three years, after two years of service in Netzach Yehuda its soldiers have the option of taking a year of classes, either to prepare them for university or to teach them a profession.

“A boy coming into the army from the haredi community has a sixth-grade skill level,” Kledanow said. “It’s not enough to do army service. They want to enter into the workforce, so they need some educational skills.”

According to the IDF, more than 85 percent of Netzach Yehuda veterans find jobs after their service.

The past draft cycle, according to Kledanow, was Netzach Yehuda’s most successful in history, with 200 recruits. As the debate over haredi army service continues, Yehuda, the current Netzach Yehuda soldier, says that more haredim should join the IDF.

“Everyone needs to give,” said Yehuda, who said he was raised with a positive view toward army service. “We’re one nation in one place and everyone should contribute.”

(JTA)

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