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He views every Haredi soldier signed up now as a tool to achieve a sea change. He predicts that once a critical mass enlists — and the soldiers remain Haredi — the community’s fears will start to recede. “If I marry and I send my children to Haredi schools and then to the army, I will be proving it is doable,” he said.
For David, 24 and also from Modi’in Illit, activism in Haredim for Jewish Unity is a way of coming to terms with his own failure to enlist. “I’m the oldest, and my father said don’t go, and I love my family so I didn’t,” he said. But with encouragement from him, two of David’s brothers resisted parental pressure and signed up. One of his sisters, who is living at home, is of marriage-age, and is now worried about her shidduch prospects. David has no regrets. Having encouraged his brothers, he now wants to encourage others.
Yehuda oozes so much confidence to effect change that it is difficult to believe that he is only 19 — and not even Israeli by nationality. He is from London and serving as a paratrooper with the Mahal program, which allows Diaspora Jews to complete army service before making aliyah.
Educated at a Haredi high school in London, he went to study at a yeshiva in Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox town near Tel Aviv, at 17. A year later, he says that he matured and understood the “obligation” incumbent on him. He decided to sign up for the army.
Yehuda believes that Haredi opposition to army service stems from political, not religious, considerations. Based on his personal encounters, he says that top rabbis “will disagree with me in public but in private they will agree that [service is] intrinsically a mitzvah.” He said that he is determined, through the campaign, to “turn a private yes to a public yes.”
Contact Nathan Jeffay at firstname.lastname@example.org