A group of religious former IDF
soldiers have drafted a petition demanding the army to enlist them for reserve service, Ynet learned Wednesday.
The group, which consists of dozens of former combat troops who served on the strictly-haredi Netzach Yehuda
Battalion, claimed that the IDF refuses to call them in for reserve duty. The few who have been asked to serve were assigned to non-combat roles, despite their fighter training.
In their online petition, the eager group urges the army to enroll the thousands of soldiers who served on the battalion since its inception in 1999. The young men said they have pleaded with the army several times on the issue, but to no avail.
"These are quality soldiers who want to continue contributing to the state even after completing their active duty," said one ex-soldier who served on the Netzach Yehuda Battalion.
"No one is expecting to get the same financial conditions that we received during active duty," he added. "We just want to maintain our values just as we did during our mandatory service."
Over the past year, some 500 new troops enlisted with Netzah Yehuda, which is considered the IDF's largest infantry battalion. Army officials say they intend to increase the number of enlistees to 600 by 2015.
Roughly 1,000 additional haredi troops have joined the ranks of other, non-combat units over the past year. About 150 haredi soldiers have signed on with the IDF after completing their mandatory service, mostly as non-commissioned officers.
Serving on a strictly-religious unit entails special conditions; the soldiers serve separately from women, their food is kosher, and prayers and Torah study are part of their daily schedule. The troops are trained on skills that they can use in civilian life, and receive thousands of shekels in aid, each.
Two years ago, the IDF established the first haredi reserve unit, Netzach Yisrael, but it has turned out to be too small to incorporate all of the ultra-Orthodox ex-fighters.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said that the soldiers who have not been called in to serve on the reserve combat unit have been enrolled in a special manpower database, and are to be called upon as needed.
"The army is looking into the possibility of establishing another reserve unit for troops who served on Netzah Yehuda," the IDF said. "(…) Due to the uniqueness of the sector and its needs, these soldiers cannot be assigned to other reserve units."