Israel's chief rabbis are expected to declare the Shabbat before Passover "Shabbat of the reserves" and instruct Israel's Jewish leaders to stress the importance of reserve duty to their congregations.
Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar announced these plans on Monday during a visit to the Tze'elim army base in south Israel, where they took part in a special ceremony in which a Torah scroll was placed in the base's synagogue.
During the ceremony at the synagogue, dozens of soldiers wearing kippas and berets danced with the Torah scroll and then placed it in the temple's Holy Ark.
Chief rabbis with soliders in Tze'elim (Photo: Kobi Nahshoni)
The rabbis also met with senior army officials, including IDF Personnel Directorate Head Major-General Elazar Stern, who asked that they back the effort to increase the motivation among Israel's soldiers.
'Only one solution'
Stern told the rabbis that the integration of 'Hesder' yeshiva students (program that combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service) into regular army units "would bring religious and secular people closer together."
Rabbi Amar said a special prayer should be written for the safety of citizens who are called up for reserve duty. "A special blessing should be said for those who leave their families and businesses – so they may return to their homes in peace."
Rabbi Metzger, for his part, said the statistics indicating a rise in draft-dodging surprised him, and linked the phenomenon to the "erosion of values related to faith, religion and love of the land.
"For the first time, even officers are asking their commanders 'What are we doing here?' because they are referred to as 'suckers' by people who sit in bars in Tel Aviv and other cities," he said.
"There is one solution, and that is to place a great emphasis on religious and educational values."