Meet the Israeli Intelligence Services’ New Ultra-Orthodox Agents

April 20, 2021 | Yonah Jeremy Bob
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In 1999, the IDF established an all-ḥaredi battalion, and since then—despite the repeated failures of legislation to start drafting Ḥaredim en masse—the number of Ḥaredim in this and other units has steadily increased. More recently, a rabbi, in cooperation with the Mossad, founded an institution called Pardes to train young ḥaredi men to serve in Israel’s intelligence agencies. Yonah Jeremy Bob, drawing on interviews with some of its graduates, writes:

Pardes enables ḥaredi youth . . . to continue studying Torah alongside their coursework in an ultra-Orthodox environment. After passing the obscenely competitive screening process, each [student goes] through pre-academic preparatory courses in the fields of computer science, geopolitics, and international relations before applying for jobs in the security establishment.

One thing that was striking was that though [one Pardes graduate interviewed, who currently works for the Mossad], was thoroughly ḥaredi, dressed in black and white, he spoke like a seasoned Mossad veteran about achieving national-security results. He was very polished; . . . if my eyes had been closed, I would have had no idea he was ultra-Orthodox. [He] related how in recent weeks his critical talmudic training to examine presumptions constantly tipped him off that something was missing from a specific intelligence picture.

The Mossad’s director, Yossi Cohen, said, “When Pardes came to me with the initiative, I knew this was an opportunity both to enhance Israel’s security with a new untapped pool of talent and to increase diversity and understanding among the country’s different sectors.”

Rabbi Daniel Rabin, [the director of Pardes], remembered that a top Shin Bet official told him, “The world of computers changes every two years. We’ve seen your guys’ capability for learning new things. . . . That is a gold mine.”

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