Many of the participants in the Israeli army’s flagship program for drafting yeshiva students are not in fact ultra-Orthodox, a Haaretz investigation has found.
In the public debate over efforts to draft yeshiva students, the Israel Defense Forces’ Shahar program is frequently cited as a model for how they can be integrated into the army and prepared for eventual employment in the civilian sector. It is true that the program, whose name is a Hebrew acronym for Shiluv Haredim (“Ultra-Orthodox integration”), has gained momentum in recent years and shown positive initial results. But it turns out that many of the program’s participants aren’t actually Haredim.
The Shahar program allows Haredi men aged 22 to 26 to serve in the army for about a year and a half. At the beginning of their service, they study math and English, which get short shrift in Haredi schools. They then move on to training geared to their army service, generally in fields involving technology.
They occupy a relatively broad range of positions in various IDF branches, including the air force, the navy, Military Intelligence, the technological and logistics directorate and the Home Front Command. They are promised a setting conducive to their religious needs, including a lack of close contact with women.
But according to three separate sources, it turns out that a large number of recent participants in the program are religious Zionists rather than Haredim.
For more, go to Haaretz.com