Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Dichter (Likud) said on Tuesday that ”Based on the answers of the Ministry of Education, I understand that the state is adopting an approach of surrender, instead of acting with all its might. Those who prevent a relative of an IDF soldier from receiving state services should shake in their boots. We will deal with this issue at the next session of the Knesset and we will demand to hear more concrete solutions.”
MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said, “I receive many calls from women whose husbands serve in the army and their children are not accepted into schools or preschools, because they are always last in line.”
The committee members wished to know why the Ministry of Education is not more active in this fight and Benayahu Tabila, representing the Haredi Dept. of the Ministry of Education responded that “our mission is education and the challenge is to ascertain that as many Haredi children as possible receive the proper education, while in many Haredi communities this has already created opposition against us, and therefore it is uncertain whether we should be the spearhead in the fight for enlistment.”
Committee Chairman Dichter pondered, “Today there are already thousands of current and former Haredi soldiers, such that there is a large population that is vulnerable; is the Ministry of Education not preparing for this?”
Tabila responded that one of the solutions is the institutions of the state Haredi education system, where their children can be accepted.
But MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) noted that “today in Jerusalem there is more of a demand for state Haredi classes than there actually are. If enlistment is a national project, where is the proper solution for this?”
Tabila replied that the initiative to establish a building for a school is under the jurisdiction of the local authority, where decisions are sometimes made under political pressure and constraints, and to this MK Azaria responded, “Who will enlist into the IDF if he knows that later on the local authority will not allow the set-up of [educational] settings for his children?!”
The committee also debated the state’s handling of the harassment of Haredi soldiers in their home environments.
“When a person who chooses to contribute to the state and to enlist—his family members incur harm as a result, and the state, instead of utilizing all its systems to assist, says that the solutions are under the jurisdiction of the local authority and not under state jurisdiction?” an enraged Dichter said. “Just as we demand to do everything to implement the IDF Enlistment Law, we certainly demand to allow for the implementation of the Compulsory Education Law. This is the most fragile population, which not only does not receive any benefits, but is also punished for no fault of its own.”
Brigadier General Eran Shani, Head of the IDF Human Resource Planning and Management Division said “there is an upward trend in the recruitment of Haredi soldiers from year to year, while in this enlistment year about 3,100 Haredi soldiers are anticipated to enlist, after 2,850 were recruited in the enlistment year 2016.”
Shani noted, “We cannot empirically measure the influence of the harassment against Haredi soldiers on the recruitment volume, but it definitely doesn’t contribute to the effort. We are working on a close partnership with the police and the State Attorney’s Office on this issue and we are continually examining not only the legal measures, but also civil suits, eliminating state funding and more.”
Major Amir Vaknin, Acting Head of the Department for Integration of Haredim in the IDF, commented that “for years we’ve been up against the continuous campaign against enlistment within the Haredi sector, which delegitimizes walking around in uniform on the street. There are currently 700 soldiers whom we have allowed to leave [the base] in civilian clothing. Our teamwork with the police and the State Attorney’s Office has led to a decrease in the number of attacks, but this is also a result of the weakening of the Jerusalem faction in the wake of the demise of Rabbi Auerbach.”
Regarding the Committee members’ question as to eliminating state funding for specific institutions, Brigadier General Shani told the committee, “I am indeed capable of pointing the finger at specific institutions, such as the Grodno Yeshiva in Ashdod, which proudly calls for harming soldiers. However, the curbing of funding will not incur harm to the institutions of the Jerusalem faction, because they receive massive amounts of money from abroad, with an emphasis on the United States. Moreover, they not only praise those who inflict harm upon Haredi soldiers, but also make sure to pay them for each day they are in custody due to this sin, so they create a positive incentive.”
Police Commander Motti Shif, Head of the Investigations Dept. at the Israel Police Investigations Division noted that “this year there has been a decrease in events in general, particularly in assault incidents, with four assault incidents recorded up until now in 2018. There has also been a decrease in ‘pashkevilim’ (leaflets) in the Jerusalem area, for example, and we know that the fine amounting to $180,000 that was ruled in the civil lawsuit had a tremendous effect.”
Attorney Shlomi Abramson of the State Attorney’s Office remarked that “this year we filed an indictment for a case in which people heckled someone, calling him ‘hardak (Haredi Kal Da’at – a slur against serving Haredim),’ and in the case of the civil suit that was mentioned, this is a civil suit for libel, in which the Attorney General decided that the state would support the citizen who filed the suit. The ruling received extensive coverage on the Haredi sites, and a petition has currently been filed against it to the District Court. Should it be rejected, we will make good use of this precedent.”