JERUSALEM (VINnews) – The number of Haredim enlisting in the IDF dropped by 20 percent in 2018, compared to 2017, according to a report by the Ha’aretz newspaper. The report cites IDF data stating that 2,440 Charedim were drafted in 2018, compared to 3,070 the year before. This is the first time the number of ultra-Orthodox recruits dropped since the military opened its special enlistment tracks for them in 2007 and represents a significant decrease in the proportion of Chareidim enlisting, considering the persistent growth in the Chareidi community, which should have led to a similar growth in enlistment.
The number of enlistees was actually 800 less than the target set for 2018 by the government and the IDF back in 2016: 3,200 new Chareidi recruits. This number could include draftees who are not necessarily Chareidi, since the current law refers to Chareidim as those who studied in a Chareidi institution for at least 2 years between 14 and 18. In fact a large percentage of those listed as Chareidim in regular IDF units (not the special Chareidi units) are no longer pursuing a Chareidi lifestyle. Despite this the IDF recognizes their Chareidi roots and includes them in the target numbers for Chareidi enlistment.
As of August 2018, out of the 7,250 men defined as Haredim serving in the military, 19 percent (about 1,440) served in regular army units. But over the past year, about 40 percent of draftees described as Haredim (some 1,100) are serving in these regular units and most of them do not conduct a Chareidi lifestyle anymore.
This is not the first time the targets were not reached, as in the past five years the IDF failed to meet the targets set by previous governments. However the gap between the targets and actual enlistment is steadily growing and with enlistment targets growing yearly it is unlikely they will be met in coming years.
At present the law does not allow for economic sanctions against Yeshivas if the targets are not met, but the proposed new conscription law drafted by former defense minister Avigdor Liberman would allow for such sanctions, although it stops short of issuing criminal sanctions for evading the draft. Chareidi politicians opposed the law in the Knesset but are willing to accept it if it passes because they have realized that it does not touch the real yeshiva students, as most of those who do enlist and are counted as Charedim for the purpose of the target numbers have already left the yeshivas well before their enlistment.
According to the new draft law, which has passed its first reading in the Knesset – in July 2018 the enlistment target was set at 3,348 for soldiers in the IDF and another 648 doing national service. The next stage would raise these goals by 8 percent by 2020, and after that by 6.5 percent a year. The final number set in the proposed law is drafting 6,844 Haredim in 2027. Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is still opposed to the new law as they want to adopt criminal sanctions for those who evade IDF service.