Photo Credit: Flash 90
Hareidi soldiers at rifle practice.

One of the IDF’s best weapons is the growing number of Hareidi combat soldiers, which is making the army stronger physically and spiritually.

A new combat unit of Hareidi soldiers is being established in the Givati Brigade, whose national religious commander Ofer Winter was promoted last week to take over the Central Command and continue his successful program to integrate Hareidim into the army, as the JewishPress.com reported here Thursday.

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Approximately 45 Hareidim from the ages of 18-22 already have been drafted for a new Tamar unit, and new positions are being opened for Hareidim in combat support units. The first Hareidi soldiers to operate bulldozers are expected to begin serving in four months.

In the Nevatim Air Force Base in the Negev, Hareidim will take combat support positions and be responsible for equipment for paratroopers.

This year, 2,226 Hareidim have enlisted in the IDF, and the number is expected to rise to 2,700 by next July. More than 100 Hareidi soldiers have passed tests, including hand-to-hand combat, to be accepted as combat soldiers in the Hareidi Netzach Yehuda infantry battalion.

An IDF officer told Haaretz that the new Givati company follows the model that IDF thinks is the best way to integrate Hareidi soldiers into the army. Instead of placing them in units with secular soldiers, where one group might dominate the other, the military thinks that all-Hareidi companies are the best model.

Additional Hareidi combat units are expected to open up in the coming years.

The motivation of Hareidi combat soldiers is extremely high, and the Netzach Yehuda has been praised several times for soldiers’ quick reactions that have prevented or minimized terrorist attacks.

The success of Hareidim as combat soldiers is ironical for the secular scoffers who for years have been accusing Hareidim of draft-dodging.

Yeshiva students often capture headlines when they are arrested for not reporting for the draft, but the hundreds of Hareidim enlisting as combat soldiers is nothing short of a quiet revolution in the army as well as in Israeli society.

Within the army, from the foot soldier to top brass, religious practice is not an issue. Winter was promoted to Brigadier-General because of his success as an officer. He was not passed over because he is religious and was not promoted just because he is religious.

When secular soldiers see Hareidim fight just as they do, the social and religious barriers drop. It is more likely that secular Jews will be influenced by Hareidim much more than non-observant soldiers will influence Hareidim to take off their black kippas.

Providing a religious infrastructure for religious soldiers in the army goes back to the days of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion.

When the late Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who was a career IDF officer, complained that there were no kosher facilities for soldiers in the Paratroopers unit, he was told, “Find me one religious paratrooper and we will provide kosher food.”

Rabbi Goren promptly showed up for paratrooper training, passed the test and became the first religious paratrooper.

Kosher food then was served.

More than once, secular paratroopers, before parachuting, have been moved by religious paratroopers saying a prayer before for jumping out of the plane opening the chute.

Many of the secular soldiers, some of whom never said in a prayer in their lives, asked to do the same.

Secular anti-Hareidi politicians, who use to laugh at warnings that the army will become more religious if they insist on drafting more Hareidim, soon may regret their wishes.

 

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.

25 COMMENTS

  1. A wonderful thing ! In Biblical and post Biblical times – it was the Haredim who were the warriors.Abraham,Moshe,King David,also the Maccabim and Bar Kochva.
    Shavua Tov – Micha'el Sar'ya Bloch – Kochav Ya'ir

  2. B-H it's heartwarming to see our religious soldiers in the IDF. This is truly what makes the IDF and Israel strong. Israel without the IDF cannot exist but the IDF without Torah cannot exist. One cannot exist without the other. I remember my cousins and friends who were religious (so called "haredi") serving in the IDF 30 and 40 years ago and there have always been "haredi" and IDF soldiers with kipot ….it's a myth that they never or they don't serve the army. In fact some ofthe best fighters in the IDF and special units have been haredi. G-d bless Israel and our soldiers. Maybe they allcome back to a life of Torah and mitzvot, along with the whole nation. Amen.

  3. I hope this “new weapon” functions better than the editor of this piece – “continue his successful program to integrate of Hareidim into the army”; “45 Hareidim from the ages of 18-12”, Rabbi Goren “because the first religious paratrooper.” There are more mistakes. I wish the hareidi soldiers a lot of success in the army!

  4. Well this is about the best news that I've read from this online newsletter. Finally something is taking place that unites Israelis!!! Hopefully the spirit of patriotism and sharing in the burden of safeguarding the security of the country will continue to grow amongst young Hareidis! And while it is suggested that they are more likely to influence the secular soldiers toward more religiosity than vice versa, it is also hoped that serving in the IDF will influence more and more Hareidis to also realize the importance in sharing of the economic burdens of the country, and that they will decide to learn and then utilize skills that have economic value, as part of living a religious life, and that they will find fulfillment in doing this, as opposed to doing nothing but studying Torah as a full-time occupation. Here's also hoping that the notion of some Hareidi that the State of Israel should not exist until the Messiah comes simply disappears from public discourse and is no longer mentioned.

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