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Atchalta de'Geula? Solving the Haredi Conscription Debacle

The Challenge


Israel is currently embroiled in a contentious debate over the conscription of Haredim into the IDF, a controversy that could potentially destabilize the government. It must be acknowledged that the current Israeli government, along with its predecessors, is unlikely to achieve full equality in military service obligations or to ensure the complete recruitment of the Haredim.

The Haredim display a diminished sense of "citizenship," indicative of their limited sense of duty and allegiance towards the state and the Israeli collective. Many Haredim do not view themselves as integral parts of Israeli society. The state is often seen as a threat to their way of life, which is guided by their revered elder Rabbis, Gedolei Ha'Dor.

It is essential to acknowledge that any move towards egalitarian participation in military service by the Haredim is unlikely to occur voluntarily; mere discussion may not be effective. Considering the complex relationship between the various Haredi factions within Haredi society, making any significant or contentious decisions on behalf of such a large community presents a challenge.

Haredi thinking of joining the army or his friends

Only a strong, clear external demand might increase the Haredim's enlistment rates. Establishing a renewed alliance among Israel's "serving publics"—which includes a Zionist coalition of religious-nationalists, secular-liberals, and Masorti Jews is crucial. Although politically diverse, this alliance would unite under a commitment to full equality of rights for all Israeli citizens and advocate for a more equitable sharing of responsibilities. This coalition could become a significant political and social force capable of balancing persuasion and coercion, engaging with Haredi leaders to address their legitimate concerns while maintaining the authority to make firm demands.

The Principles for a Solution


  1. Acknowledging the Haredim's genuine anxieties is essential. Their primary objection to conscription is the fear of undermining the Torah lifestyle through the exposure of their youth to the secular influences of the IDF, a concern that is both authentic and rational.

  2. Thus, any proposed solution must address the broader Haredi establishment, not just the logistics of enlistment. Previous strategies, focused on incentivizing or penalizing Haredi youth, failed to recognize that these individuals exist within a Haredi autonomous bubble, parallel to the state. Therefore, solutions must consider the broader implications, addressing the anxieties and needs of the entire Haredi community, including both potential conscripts and those exempt from service.

  3. The government's financing model for Torah institutions should convey a simple principle: less enlistment means less funding, whereas higher enlistment leads to increased funding. This principle applies to both individual Haredim and Torah educational institutions.

Possible Actions for Implementation


  1. On the Systemic Level: The financing of Torah institutions should be linked to the proportion of their members who are military veterans. An increase in this percentage should result in higher funding, and vice versa. This policy not only provides a positive incentive for the yeshiva world to support Haredi enlistment but could also improve the perception of Haredi service members, potentially increasing their acceptance into better institutions.

  2. Encouraging Older Haredim's Recruitment (Shalav Bet): Despite initial reports of widespread enlistment among older Haredim at the war's onset, it has become clear that recruitment rates have not improved. Promoting enlistment in "Shlav Bet" (Phase B) for Haredi service in non-combat roles between ages 25-40 in the home front command could normalize IDF service for future generations. Identifying economic and social incentives to increase recruitment in this demographic is crucial.

  3. Higher Government Stipends for Army Veterans Yeshiva Students: Implementing a policy where Haredim who have completed three years of IDF service receive greater state support than their non-serving peers could incentivize service. This strategy would encourage Haredi soldiers to return to their Torah studies after service, while also facilitating a smoother transition into civilian life.



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