Thursday, December 5, 2019

Charedim in the IDF? An Insider's Perspective

As a sequel to yesterday's post about the IDF massively overstating the numbers of charedim in the IDF, here is an eye-opening account from a friend of mine who served in Nachal Charedi. Please note that the point of this is not that Nachal Charedi is not valuable; it is tremendously valuable. The point is that Nachal Charedi does not indicate that charedi society is more accepting of army service.


Don't let the IDF's spin fool you. The talk of "mistakes", of "an unfortunate mishap", it's all false.

I know. I served for three years in Netzach Yehuda/ Nahal Haredi and can testify that what we have here is nothing less than a systematic campaign by the military to fool the government and the public.

In August 2013, I transferred from the Border Police to Netzach Yehuda. The August draft cycle was the first since then-Finance Minister Yair Lapid passed the Draft Law, and everyone involved had an interest in showing that haredi enlistment was on the rise.

As part of this propaganda effort, Netzach drafted two companies. As IDF veterans know, every combat battalion only drafts one company per tri-yearly draft cycle. But officially, so many haredim were begging to wear army green that they had to establish a second company, probably the first time this happened in the military's history.

The reality, of course, was considerably different. In fact, there were barely enough haredim for one company. So what did they do to maintain the fiction?

They simply went to the IDF's recruitment center in Tel Hashomer, found everyone who refused to serve in non-glamorous units such as tanks and artillery, conscripted them into Netzach, and sold them to the public as 'haredim'.

This brings me to the ultimate policy of dishonesty that was only exposed this morning. The IDF officially counts anyone serving in its ultra-Orthodox units as haredi.

This includes foreign soldiers trying to evade a mandatory three month Hebrew course ("I'm haredi and can't have female teachers"), married Religious Zionist troops who wanted more time at home with their wives, Chabadnikim, and Religious Zionists who didn't want to serve with women.

All of these people were counted in the official statistics. And when we were told that haredi enlistment is on the rise, it didn't mean that more haredim chose to fight for God and country, but that these units simply accepted more people.

Yet even the haredim themselves were not actually haredi. During my service, I saw people in my unit visiting brothels and eating bread on Passover. Shabbat desecration was rampant, daily minyanim were not a thing, and even officers were completely secular. When serving as a commander in the training base, I would often be forced to visit other companies to find a minyan for Mincha because I knew there was no chance I would find it with Netzach guys.

This wasn't a secret. Everyone knew, both in the IDF and out. Yet the official story went on. Journalists would arrive on base, speak to the three actual haredim, and then file a story about "the Ultra Orthodox combat battalions". I even remember how the soldiers selected to visit Defense Minister Bogie Ya'alon in his Sukkah were ordered to replace their knitted kipa with a black velvet one. As the old Canon ad went, "Image is Everything".

You can't fool all of the people all of the time, and the fact that the IDF was exposed cooking the books means we need to do some real thinking. The myth that haredim are running to the military is now demonstrably false, and the stats about their integration in the workforce are also problematic.

This means that the two fastest growing populations in Israel, the haredim and the Arabs, are not serving in the military, live in poverty, are not highly educated, and do not identify with the state.

These two populations already comprise 35% of Israel's total population. What will happen in 2040? Who will work, serve in the IDF, pay taxes, and be doctors?

As the saying goes, a third of the country pays taxes, a third works, and a third serves in the army. The problem is, is that it's always the same third.

If nothing changes, Israel could very well deteriorate into a failed state that cannot take care of its citizenry.

24 comments:

  1. This post seems like a hasty patch to cover up the fundamental error of the previous post, in which you cited and linked to the Jerusalem Post to breathlessly trumpet that the IDF has been "deliberately falsifying" (your words) the number of charedi recruits. It said nothing of the sort. At most, there is a rethinking or difference of opinion in how to define "charedi." That doesn't even mean the previous designation was wrong, let alone "deliberately false" - its just a different method. Everyone knows these things are impossible to define. That your "friend" here thinks otherwise is meaningless. As a Friend of the Show, I hope you are more careful of your words. In other contexts that could be actionable. And in all events it doesn't help your credibility.

    As for your closing comment, that Israel could deteriorate into a failed state - in 2019, I thought everyone had learned to stay away from predictions.

    (Having said all this, yes, I agree with central point. It would be nice if more Charedim served.)

    2. In your update you fret about the

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    1. DF, actually Rabbi Slifkin used to be Chassidic, so he would know their thinking patterns. To be frank, I wouldn't want to join the army either but everyone has to work. Also, the friend defined what charedi meant. Did you read the essay? And since the Arbs and charedi community will be supplying such a large percentage of the population of Israel in the near future, it follows that, if they continue to refuse to work and defend, contributing nothing to society, I think we can make a reliable prediction. I know you're trying to protect them, but I don't buy it and nor should you. They are simply not joining the ranks to protect this country. Prayer will not save you when the Arabs begin launching missiles. People should resize that they should not rely on G-d to perform miracles but rely on themselves. G-d would not be pleased if people relax, sit back, and say G-d will provide.

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  2. Well, if Nahal Haredi is so full of chilul shabbos, treif, and brothels, and they don't have a minchah, then I guess it's a good thing so many Haredim don't go.

    I know everyone will say that it's that way *because* the Haredim don't go, but I heard awful stories from sincere people who were not given the religious environment they were promised. So, the army doesn't properly accommodate them in any case.

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    1. Haredim don't serve or work and it's a big problemDecember 6, 2019 at 12:48 AM

      But yet he was able to find a minyan from other units which have religious people. That's because there are religious units that aren't fake like the nachal haredi clearly is. But, heaven forfend, you might be serving alongside religious zionists, and the kashrut hashgacha perhaps is not at the mehadrin lmehadrin level since it's certified by a religious zionist rav rather than a charedi rav?

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    2. You want the officers of Nahal Haredi to compel the conscripts to daven and keep shabbos?

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    3. Just like in the workplace, not all requests for accommodations can be granted. And the manager and the employee often have different opinions on what is reasonable. And while the manager (who was once an employee himself) understands the employee's position, the employee, who has a very limited field of vision, does not understand everything the manager does.

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    4. @DF No, it is not like in workplace, where you can choose the one that fits you and can quit when it does not.

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  3. Why Pray for Tzahal-IDF:

    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/04/guest-post-why-pray-for-idf.html

    ===================================

    How to Pray for Tzahal-IDF:

    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/09/how-to-pray-for-tzahal-idf.html

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  4. This is I think the big difference between the Hesder Units and the Haredi Units. In the Religious Zionist world, the best of the best are encouraged to go to hesder, and the Hesder units have many soldiers who are both committed to Halacha and serving in the army as an ideal, not a "bedievid"

    In the Haredi world, the army is seen as an escape for people who do not fit in the Yeshiva world or people trying to leave a religious lifestyle, it is no wonder that when you put a bunch of guys like that together in the same unit, they are not running to Daven Mincha every day.

    I'm curious whether the other Haredi units (Tomer in Givati or Chetz in Tzanchanim) are better or worse than Netzach Yehuda.

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  5. Yet another post that concludes with Israel's dire future, all because the Charadim don't get MBAs. Don't we have enough other pr
    oblems to deal with without you harping on this on a regular basis?

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    1. Agreed. It's the same problem with Bibi: Iran, Iran, Iran. Doesn't Israel have enough problems to deal with, without him harping on about Iran on a regular basis?

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  6. These details confirms that drafting Haredim will not be beneficial to the state. You put teenagers for three years in a secular environment, and many of them will end up chilonim. Less people keep Torah= less protection for Israel from haShamayim.

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    1. Lazer, they need to protect this country like everyone else. Everyone has to work, Lazer. And if they will end up like chilonim, then they had little faith, to begin with. Perhaps it is a testament to rationalism, being superior to mysticism.

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    2. Turk, this was discussed in the previous post. Keeping Torah is what ultimately protects the country, not the number of soldiers: "If only My people would hearken to Me, if Israel would go in My ways. In a short time I would subdue their enemies and upon their enemies I would return My hand (Tehillim 81:14-15)."

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    3. "charedim" who would leave Judaism because of a secular surrounding or secular environment were not truly "charedim" in the first place, despite you wanting to count them in your ranks because of how they might dress or what groups they generally socialize and interact with.

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    4. @Student v: It's not so simple as a charedi young man leaving yiddishkeit because he was simply put in a secular environment, ergo, he was never really religious in the first place.

      From my experience, it starts gradually: cutting corners here or there with kashrus, skipping parts of Shacharis, eventually missing putting on tefillin a couple of days, then finally going weeks without putting them on because there are "more important" things to do, etc. etc. That's just an indication of which direction the bochur is going.

      That's perhaps one of the reasons for hesder: they do half a year of army, then they're back in yeshiva for the other half of the year. So it's always possible to take note of the bochur's level of observance.

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    6. @Lazer, again, prayer will not save us when the Arabs start to launch missiles. G-d helps people who help themselves. Thus, we should not rely on G-d to perform a miracle; but in ourselves. 

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    7. Hesder no longer does split army service. soldiers in Hesder learn in Yeshiva for a year and half or two years before drafting then serve for 17 months consecutively at least before returning to yeshiva to complete the 5 years in hesder.

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  7. I was wondering about one tiny part of this post. He lists "Chabadnikim" with those who are not charedi. In America, those known as "lubavitchers" here may be quite different, but they are still thought of as under the charedi umbrella.
    Are they not part of the Charedi community in Israel?

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    1. Chabad is considered in a special category--there is a "tradition" of a year of קבוצה, where Israeli Chabad yeshiva students would learn a year in 770, by the Rebbe, after they would finish yeshiva gedolah. Even after the Rebbe's passing (when the experience is clearly not the same anymore as participating in farbrengens with the Rebbe for an entire year), Chabad bochurim still arrange for this year in 770. But, in order to get permission to go, they usually have to obligate themselves to do army service of some sort when they come back.
      --Yehudah P.

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  8. The problem has a simple solution. Conscript them. Force them. Don't worry, there won't be a revolution because the consequences are too nuts.

    But hey, think haredim never served? Think again.

    The Bar Kochba revolt. Everyone was hasidic, because to be a hasid is to be pious and G-d fearing.

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  9. Unknown, many scholars believe the name Essene was Hasidim, “righteous ones,” in Hebrew. But the Essenes were not the same Haredim of today. It therefore follows that Bar Kochba did not enlist Essenes. It, therefore, follows that Haredim today do not enlist. It is possible to bring them into the work force, though.

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