”The IDF is interested in Charedi service. In the face of the lack of manpower, this is a national and operational necessity. We are making a concerted effort to integrate the Charedis in every field. Next month we will be opening the new, 2nd battalion of `Netzah Yehuda`. The IDF is operating 8 types of kosher certifications in order to meet the needs of the Charedim who are enlisting. We are doing everything we can to make sure that the standing of women in the IDF is not hurt by the expansion of the scope of the enlistment of Charedis.”
These words were said by Brigadier General Gadi Agmon of the Personnel Directorate in a conversation held by the ”Committee for Sharing the Burden”. The Committee, under the auspices of MK Ayelet Shaked (HaBayit HaYehudi), met on Thursday for the first time to discuss the governmental bill ”for sharing the burden” that was formed by the Perry Committee and that is now being prepared for its second and third reading. Committee Chair Shaked announced at the opening of the meeting that ”This committee will deal with a topic that touches the innermost souls of many different communities in Israeli society. Our responsibility as members of this committee is great. The Torah has strengthened the Jewish people throughout history and we should encourage those who want to study Torah. We need to be both just and wise. Equality is an important value, but in life as in the army there isn’t always perfect equality. Service with the army radio station is not comparable to service in Golani.” MK Shaked also added that ”It has been demanded from us to find solutions that will allow Charedis to keep their Torah and faith while giving them the ability to be integrated into the army and the workforce in a gradual way. We do not need to change the Charedis, but we need to find solutions that will protect their lifestyle while they take on the burden. We will find the right, appropriate solution by paying attention and listening to each other. We are done yelling at each other. Instead we will talk to one another.
Chair of the government committee who drafted the bill, Minister Yaakov Perry (Yesh Atid) said that ”the bill attempts to bring about the integration of the Charedis into civil and military service in a gradual way, one that has been deeply considered. The integration of the Charedis into different fields will significantly contribute to their economic situation, will shrink the gaps and will significantly grow the Israeli economy. In the near future we will outline a plan for the integration of the minorities into the civil service. The committee chose not to add economic sanctions against those who violate the law into the bill when we found that this type of punishment would not be effective against the Charedi public.
Vice President of the Israel Democracy Institute, Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern claimed that ”we should not think in terms of perfect equality because that’s an impossible utopia. The State of Israel needs to continue to recognize the value of Torah study because that it is a part of the national ethos. The idea is to find the right balance between continuing to study Torah and the value of equality. I believe in the principles of the Perry committee when they say that every year 1800 students should be allowed to stay in Yeshivas while the rest will integrate into different fields. However, it is important to understand that there is no practical way to choose those students. There is no professional, sincere way to choose them. Even a rabbinical committee cannot do this. Which body could possibly decide who will go to the tent of Torah and who will go to the tent of the scouts? In my opinion the judicial activism of the Supreme Court against the decisions of the Knesset regarding the enlistment of the Charedim is mistaken. The sanctions that we want to put into the bill need to start today and not in four years. The sanctions do not need to be directed towards individual people who do not enlist, but rather towards the institutions and the yeshivas themselves. We need to use our economic power in order to achieve these goals.”
MK Israel Hasson (Kadima) said ”I know how to distinguish between sloppy and thorough work and I think that the Perry Committee did sloppy work that will bring us back to the field of politics. We need a fundamentally new model. The current model and the one offered by the Perry Committee are based on a system created during the time of Ben-Gurion. The model is simply not relevant to the current reality in Israel.
Brigadier General (reserves) Yehuda Duvduvani, who established the ”Netzah Yehuda” battalion argued that ”from the establishment of the battalion 15 years ago, we have successfully enlisted about 4500 Charedi soldiers. 90% of them integrated into the labor force after leaving the army. Every year the battalion allows for the freeing up of 17 battalions of reserve soldiers and thereby saves 70 million NIS. After the recent amazing development of enlistment from the Charedi sector, in the last few months we have gone backwards. We have a significant problem of integrating the Charedis into the workforce because of a lack of will by employers to hire them. There is no quick fix. We cannot push this. We need to implement the process gradually.”
The IDF`s Representative in the Deliberations, Brigadier General Gadi Agmon said that ”In the last few years there has been a significant rise in the number of potential recruits who do not enlist by using the ”faith in Torah” exception, from 9 percent to 13 percent. This is in addition to the rise in the number of women who don`t enlist. The IDF is interested in Charedi service. In the face of the lack of manpower, this is a national and operational necessity. We are making a concerted effort to integrate the Charedis in every field. Next month we will be opening the new, 2nd battalion of ”Netzah Yehuda”. From our perspective the goal is to enlist 2000 Charedim next month. Despite the recent radicalization on the Charedi street against those who have decided to wear the uniform, we have not seen a drop in the willingness to enlist. The IDF is ready to absorb the Charedis according to what we are told. The IDF is operation 8 types of kosher certifications in order to meet the needs of the Charedis who are enlisting. We are doing everything we can to make sure that the standing of women in the IDF is not hurt by the expansion of the scope of the enlistment of Charedis.”