Ultra-Orthodox enlistment in IDF at record high

Ultra-orthodox enlistment in the IDF hit a record high in 2017.

By Yona Schnitzer, TPS

More than 3,000 haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Israelis enlisted in the IDF in 2017 – the highest ever in the history of the state. The figure – 3,070 – represents roughly a third of the 9,700 18-year-old haredi Israelis slated for military service.

In 2013, 1,972 ultra-Orthodox Jews enlisted in the IDF, and the figure has been growing gradually with each passing year.

Jerusalem is the city from which the highest number of haredi soldiers enlisted in 2017, beating out Tel Aviv, the traditional record holder.

While the uptick in enlistment may represent a drastic change in certain sects of ultra-Orthodox society’s attitude towards military service, the vast majority remain opposed.

On Wednesday evening, roughly 500 members of the more extreme sects staged a protest in Jerusalem against the upcoming mandatory draft laws, which are expected to be promoted in the Knesset in the next several weeks.

The protesters blocked roads and train tracks before police forces responded with crowd-control methods. Thirty protesters were arrested.

A preliminary reading of the new draft legislation passed in the Knesset in July, causing a rift with the coalition’s ultra-Orthodox parties, which led to a postponement of the law to December.

The measure calls for haredi yeshivot (or, institutes of Talmud study) to meet annual enlistment quotas, and for those quotas to increase annually for 10 years. Yeshivot that fail, or refuse, to meet the quotas will suffer reductions in government funding.

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According to the proposal, 3,000 yeshiva students will be drafted and 600 will agree to perform civilian national service in the first stage, which would last two years. After that, yeshivot that fail to hit a 95 percent target will face additional economic sanctions.