"Even if a person has been granted a legal exemption from serving, it does not mean that he is not dodging the draft, only that the law does not compel him to serve in the IDF," head of the IDF Human Resources Directorate Major General Eleazar Stern, said Wednesday at a conference at Bar-Ilan University.
According to Stern, anyone who intentionally lowers his physical or mental profile or falsely claims to study in a yeshiva belongs in the IDF.
At the conference, the senior officer stated that there are many who purport to be fulltime yeshiva students but who do not actually studyTorah. At the moment, among the population eligible for the draft, about 11% receive exemptions by declaring fulltime torah-study as their profession.
"We have to remember that 25% of first-graders today learn within the ultra-Orthodox education system, and if no one intervenes, we (in the army) will be in a similar a situation in a few years," Stern said.
According to Stern, the existence of the Haredi Nahal regiment refutes the claim that ultra-Orthodox life and the army cannot be combined. "They have conditions there that are even better than in Bnei Brak," the Major General said, referring to a heavily Haredi town in central Israel.
"They see no women, not even at a kilometer's distance. We created such an environment in the army and now society must play its role and encourage (Haredi youths) to serve in the army. I don’t want the Haredi Nahal to be just a regiment, but an entire brigade."
'Society must motivate youths to serve'
But ultra-Orthodox youths are not the only ones who shirk military service. Stern said that draft-dodging is growing and penetrating different sectors of the population, including even religious Zionist society, some of whose members claim to study Torah fulltime and whose avoidance is the result of the Gaza disengagement.
Stern said that when a leftist does not want to be drafted, the IDF transfers him to a court and puts him on trial, but when someone declares himself to be a Yeshiva student nothing is done, and this must be addressed.
Stern demanded that Israeli society fully appreciate those who serve in the army. He reported that a senior administrator at the Technion told him that most of the medical students there were Arabs. "In the past there was a law that anyone who had done his military service received preferential treatment when applying to an educational institution. Now, because of all this egalitarianism, we have harmed the soldiers and must give them preference in these areas. Israeli society must instill motivation to serve, and treat soldiers appropriately after they are discharged."
Regarding the new benefits for reserve soldiers which were approved this week by the government, Stern called it an expression of principle. "This population which carries the burden on its back is important to society and worthy of these benefits."