YNet News reports (http://bit.ly/2aH6PoF) that thousands of exemptions previously granted to yeshiva students have been rescinded after it was revealed that these individuals are not in fact engaged in ongoing Torah study, but are leading a secular lifestyle instead. Approximately 4,000 Haredi men between the ages of 17 and 24 fall under this category according to figures provided by the IDF’s Manpower Directorate.
To qualify for the exemption, these men were required to study at an Education Ministry approved yeshiva for at least 45 hours a week, but failed to do so. Consequently, these men are now being drafted into the IDF, with many already getting their military orders and starting their required service.
Using private investigators, the IDF employed the same strategy they used to catch young women who claimed religious exemptions in order to avoid their military service.
“Many in the Haredi sector have a Facebook page,” said an unnamed military official. “As soon as we realize that the young man does not meet the conditions for exemption, we revoke it after summoning him for a hearing in which we present him with the evidence and allow him to appeal the decision.
Among the evidence discovered on Facebook by the IDF were photos of the ultra-Orthodox men clad in immodest beach wear, “partying” on the Sabbath, and “socializing with young women.” The incriminating pictures had been posted either personally by the Haredi men or their friends to social media.
Some of these students have successfully appealed the IDF’s determination and have seen their exemptions reinstated. Others saw their cases referred to the IDF’s Criminal Investigation Division, which arrested those who rejected their military orders to report, prompting protests outside courts and IDF prisons.
While lying about one’s religious lifestyle in order to claim an exemption is a criminal offense, the IDF has opted not to file official complaints with the Israeli police. “We don’t want to flood the police (with complaints), and that is not at the top of our priorities. The very fact the yeshiva student status has been revoked and the young man will be drafted is the most significant achievement we have,” explained a Manpower Directorate official. The yeshivot which vouch for these students who are later found to be lying about their attendance are also asked for clarification by the IDF.
More than 1,000 national-religious and ultra-Orthodox yeshivas claim to have students eligible for military service exemptions.
“In one instance, the handling of a yeshiva was transferred to the Defense Ministry so the minister can decide whether to revoke its status,” the official explained. “Anyone whose exemption was revoked and fails to enlist on the day he was assigned is arrested by the CID and brought to the induction center—just like anyone else.”
The official added that while cracking down on draft-dodging is not wholly sufficient to end the problem, it is still a good method of finding most dodgers. “In this way, we allow the ultra-Orthodox society and the ultra-Orthodox youth to integrate better into the general society and the job market,” he said.
One young Haredi man who was caught by the IDF, referred to as A. in the article, saw his exemption revoked, but is now appealing the determination on the basis that he has “returned to the straight and narrow” and is once more enrolled and attending yeshiva.