Sharp jump in number of Ultra-Orthodox joining Israeli national service thumbnail

Sharp jump in number of Ultra-Orthodox joining Israeli national service

By NEWSRAEL Telling the Israeli Story

While encouraging, the 65% increase over last year does not address the basic need for thousands more soldiers. 

There has been a significant increase in the number of haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) joining the national civil service over the past year, Ma’ariv revealed in a report Tuesday.

There has been a 65% increase between July 2023 and June 2024 over the previous 12-month period.

In real numbers, this meant 811 men signed up for the voluntary program that is an official substitute for military service, versus 492 in the previous similar period.

The jump was especially noticeable in the security service track, where people work in such places as the police, security services, emergency rescue services and terror-victim identification units. The number more than doubled, from 134 to 279 volunteers.

This is 34.4% of the total new recruits, in a track that in 2022 was made up of only 20% ultra-Orthodox, according to the Knesset Research and Information Center.

In all, said the report, some 1,500 haredim are currently serving in the various fields offered by the authority.

This could be an encouraging sign considering that in 2022, there were just over 1,200 haredim enrolled in the national service program in either the security service track or a social service track that includes the internal security, health, welfare and education sectors.

On the other hand, a quick look at the history of haredi national service reveals that there were times when haredi involvement was much higher.

Twelve years ago, for example, the Civil Service Commission reported that there were 3,885 ultra-Orthodox young men in its ranks.

Whatever the numbers are, critics point out that the overwhelming need today is for thousands more men to serve in the military, not the civilian sphere.

It is generally acknowledged that the IDF needs to be beefed up with several more brigades in order to protect the country at a time when there is an ongoing war with Hamas in the south, a potential full-out war with Hezbollah in the north, and constant threats coming from Iranian terror proxies in both the near abroad (Syria, possibly Jordan) and overseas (Yemeni Houthis).

It also does not solve the issue ruled upon by Israel’s Supreme Court, that haredim must be drafted into the IDF due to the laws against discrimination, as the secular and national-religious sectors of society are currently unfairly bearing the bulk of the burden of military service.

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