The Right Approach to Bringing the Ultra-Orthodox into the IDF

Nov. 15 2017

Since the turn of the century, the number of Ḥaredim serving in the Israeli military has steadily increased—despite the repeated failures of legislative initiatives to conscript them en masse. Yonatan Branski examines the causes and effects of the increase, suggests strategies for increasing ḥaredi enlistment, and argues military service might be not the biggest obstacle but rather the key to improving relations between Ḥaredim and Israeli society at large. Most importantly, writes Branski, the state and the IDF must continue to respect the ultra-Orthodox desire to remain a group apart:

The fundamental assumption in Israeli society, the media, and many of the state institutions is that the Ḥaredim lag behind in terms of culture and values, and that their integration into Israeli society will bring them out of their current “darkness” into the “light” of the dominant Western liberal culture. This patronizing and elitist approach, which often hides behind false civility and political correctness, endangers the crucial process of the ḥaredi sector’s inclusion in the IDF, in Israeli society, and eventually, the country’s leadership. . . .

Throughout Israel’s history, military service has functioned as a social and cultural melting pot, primarily because serving together provides a deep common denominator that connects people of different backgrounds. . . . [But the] idea that the IDF should be a “melting pot” is one of the [main] reasons that the Haredim are opposed to military service. They are completely unwilling to assimilate into Israeli society and fear the inevitable cultural impact of living together in close quarters.

While so far the solution to this problem has been to create special units for Ḥaredim, participation in these units, while by no means encouraging assimilation, has nonetheless led recruits to develop an enhanced sense of citizenship and facilitated their economic integration. An example:

In their first months of service, ḥaredi soldiers in Battalion 97 are much less willing to participate in noncommissioned-officer courses or [regular] officer courses, which require extending their service, than are soldiers in the same battalion who come from the Religious Zionist sector.

The ḥaredi soldiers are [at first] focused on their own self-interest and are unwilling to make the personal sacrifice required by such courses. . . . [But], as time goes on, many of the ḥaredi soldiers change their perspective as they acquire a better understanding of the importance of making use of their abilities to contribute their share in the most fitting manner.

As the number of ḥaredi NCOs and officers who speak this ethical language increases, they will convey it to more and more of the ḥaredi soldiers under their command. From the earliest stages of the project to get Ḥaredim to serve in the IDF, it was clear that one of the most important keys to its success would be the cultivation of a cadre of outstanding ḥaredi NCOs and junior officers. This is a lengthy process, but the trend is gaining strength from year to year.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli society, Ultra-Orthodox

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security