Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today visited an IDF base in the center of the country where he met with officers and soldiers from the Nachal Brigade’s "Netzah Yehuda" Haredi (ultra-orthodox) Battalion.
During his visit, Prime Minister Netanyahu was briefed by the unit’s officers on the IDF track for ultra-orthodox recruits. He met with soldiers from the Battalion, heard their stories about their IDF experiences and the difficulties they encountered en route to enlisting in the IDF.
Sgt. Aharon Steinmetz said that, "I grew up in as ultra-orthodox a background as there is, in ‘black’ yeshivot. I came across an article about the Battalion and I understood that it was not what I thought. My feeling had been that it served those who were on the margins of ultra-orthodox society. I understood that I had to enlist and serve. This was very difficult; I needed to go to my parents and tell them that I wanted to enlist. They did not want me to and said that I was destroying the family and my brothers. It took me a long time to explain to them that it was not that terrible. I turned to the Netzah Yehuda Battalion because I understood that it was designated for combat service and that is what provides strength and gives more than any other framework. When I go around on the street in Jerusalem in uniform, I feel great and I see the change. There was friction in the past and I was asked to take off my uniform when I came home. Today, I am accepted."
Prime Minister Netanyahu referred to his grandfather, a student at the Brisk Yeshiva: "One day, he stood with his brothers at a train station in Europe, in the snow, and was beaten by a gang of hooligans who called him ‘Jew.’ He lay bleeding in the mud and snow and did not know if he would live. He said to himself, ‘What a shame that the sons of the Maccabees, the descendants of King David, lay in the mud without the ability to defend themselves. If I live, I will take my family and go to the Land of Israel and there we will found a state and an army.’ He was a yeshiva student, an outstanding mind. He saw no contradiction. Faith is essential but so is the sword. How can we defend the Jewish People? How can we defend the Torah? With the strength of faith, certainly. But we must also wield the sword, the sword of David."
Prime Minister Netanyahu also said that, "Here, there is an amazing combination of three things: faith, defense and earning a livelihood. I think that this is a revolution. I thought so in my first term as Prime Minister and I think so today even more. My impression is that in your stories and in what I hear, there is a fundamental change in ultra-orthodox society and we want to strengthen it. In five years, we want to double the number of draftees from the ultra-orthodox sector. You tell me how proud you are, and rightly so. I think that this changes not only ultra-orthodox society and its attitude to military service but also society’s attitude to the ultra-orthodox public. We want to unite our people."
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit was held in continuation of the Cabinet’s 9.1.11 decision to double the number of ultra-orthodox men who are recruited into military and civic service over the next five years, and to create additional combat frameworks in order to absorb them. Religious Services Minister Yaacov Margi, National Economic Council Chairman Prof. Eugene Kandel, GOC Personnel Maj.-Gen. Avi Zamir, Battalion CO Lt.-Col. Amichai Segal and other senior officials and officers also participated in the visit. Maj.-Gen. Zamir said that the IDF was prepared to double the number of recruits and that combat tracks would be enlarged by March in order to accomodate them.