Founder of ultra-orthodox battalions says all must ‘share responsibility’ for defending Israel

‘Whoever isn’t studying (Torah) – someone should put a hand on their shoulder and tell them to go do something good for the IDF.’ 

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

The founder of the first ultra-orthodox IDF battalions, Brigadier General (res.) Yehuda Duvdevani said more participation is needed from the ultra-orthodox sector in Israel’s military.

Duvdevani, who established the Nachal Chareidi and Netzach Yehuda battalions acknowledged that, although many yeshivah students were fully engaged in learning Torah, those who had time to spare should serve in the Israeli army, at least in some capacity.

He told Kan Moreshet “Whoever is really studying eighteen hours a day, should sit and study, and strengthen us through Torah.”

However he added, “Whoever isn’t studying – someone should put a hand on their shoulder and tell them to go do something good for the IDF.”

Duvdevani acknowledged that this should be done in an amicable way and may not in all cases mean full service.

“Everything can be done through dialogue … They need to come and contribute, and not only in the IDF.”

He added, “There are many options today. We need to talk about how to do it in a spirit of solidarity, how they can share the responsibilities with us.”

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The draft of ultra-orthodox men has been a bone of contention in the Israeli government since the founding of the state.

Duvdevani recounted the challenges of establishing the first ultra-orthodox battalions.

“Twenty-five years ago…I recruited thirty-one haredi youngsters to become fighters in the IDF. They were the pioneers,” he explained.

Duvdevani added, “We encountered great difficulties and many did not believe that the project would succeed. They told me, ‘Ben-Gurion didn’t succeed, Rabin didn’t succeed.”

“We acted with tremendous dedication and true faith in bringing haredi youth into the IDF. Today the battalion is the bridge between secular and haredi Jews in the IDF and in Israeli society, in general,” Duvdevani concluded.

When asked how he would respond to ultra-orthodox leaders who opposed the draft, he replied, “We are in a state of war and we must sanctify Heaven every day in depth, in unity, with a mighty spirit. It is inconceivable that the haredi population does not take part.”

Duvdevani pointed out that ultra-orthodox soldiers in the Nachal Chareidi, the Arrow Paratroopers and the Tomer Battalion in Givati are currently fighting in Gaza, many since the beginning of the war.

Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party faced pushback after they proposed a bill to extend the draft time, particularly for reservists, but without mentioning increased contribution from the ultra-orthodox sector.

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In response, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said, “The ultra-Orthodox public is dear and loved and contributes a lot to the State of Israel, and it is now essential that it also take a more significant part in the tasks of defense and security.”

He added, “This move should happen out of dialogue and discussion and not by coercion or, God forbid, by defamation.”

“Religious Zionism proves that it is possible to combine Torah study and observance of minor and severe mitzvot together with military service at the front. My ultra-Orthodox brothers, we need you,” Smotrich said.