Hundreds of Chareidim Volunteer for IDF


idf-chareidi-2An unusual advertisement appeared on a number of chareidi websites at the end of last week. “A group of yeshiva students is organizing to volunteer with the reserves. Want to join?” it read.

“We believe that the people of Israel are in the midst of an obligatory war against ruthless enemies who seek to annihilate us,” the ad continued. “We believe it is a great privilege to join the military effort, in addition to our important contribution through Torah study. We too yearn for this precious mitzvah.”

The advertisement sends applicants to an online form inquiring about age, marital status and employment status.

“There is no risk of the army drafting you for service if you’re exempt, or that you will get stuck in the army against your will,” the advertisement reassures worried inquirers.

Yosef, a 40-year-old father of six from Yerushalayim who serves as the initiative’s publicity coordinator, told The Times of Israel that the online campaign has garnered 500 volunteers since the ad went online Friday, with new people stepping forward every day.

He estimated that a total of 1,500-2,000 will end up signing on for two possible tracks: a combat track for younger, unmarried men to be trained with new immigrants and to join existing fighting units; and a shorter track for older volunteers, comprising multiple-day basic training followed by a commitment to volunteer in the reserves 12 days a year for five years.

He said senior officers within the military have expressed excitement about the idea.

“The volunteer position must be significant, otherwise it’s pointless,” Yossef told The Times of Israel. “It’s not just something symbolic for us to check off and say, ‘Look, we came to serve in the army.’ People really want to contribute, and not simply as watchdogs in some remote installation. The volunteers also need satisfaction in their work.”

The initiative was the brainchild of five adult students based in Yerushalayim, who have long debated the idea of volunteering for the army. The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June, and IDF Operation Brother’s Keeper, which ensued in the West Bank, spurred them into action.

Volunteering for the army is, Yosef acknowledged, also a show of defiance against a government that has decided to shove service down their throats. If chareidim were given a mass exemption from the army, many would volunteer to serve in the IDF and join the workforce, he said.

Yosef believes that the volunteer track into the IDF will prove much more successful in the long run than the draft approved by the Knesset earlier this year.

{ Israel based on a Times of Israel report}