Former soldiers with the Nahal Haredi Brigade criticized the High Court for its decision to postpone its ruling on petitions filed regarding the Tal Law.
A nine-justice panel decided Tuesday to delay, yet again, ruling on several petitions challenging the legality of the law, which exempts young haredi men from military service on religious grounds. The exemption is set to expire on January 2011.
According to religious servicemen placed with the brigade, many haredi youth "want to serve their country and are just waiting for someone to reach out."
Manny Zoldan, 28, who was one of the first soldiers to serve in the 97th Brigade, commonly known as Nahal Haredi, told Ynet that "no real attempt has been made to recruit haredim".
"An organized system must be put in place for this… There is a large number of haredi youth just roaming the streets. If we could draft just half of them, we could set up another battalion."
Zoldan believes that the problem stems from the fact that the sole combatant brigade set up for the ultra-Orthodox sector is ill-fitted for their needs.
"The brigade has a certain quota to fill. The (military) decided that it's simply to hard to draft the haredim, so they chose the easy way out – ask the hesder yeshiva rabbis to refer people who would have enlisted anyway.
"The result is a brigade made mostly of religious soldiers, but with very few Orthodox men. Generally speaking, the public has been led to believe that there is an appropriate cadre for haredim in the IDF, but that simply isn’t the case."
'Social price worth it'While the ultra-Orthodox community's attitude towards military service has changed in the past few years, enlisting in the IDF may still carry a heavy social toll, which Zoldan is convinced is worth the sacrifice.
"I truly believe that even those who paid the price think it was worth it. The military gave us much more than what we gave it. It made for a new generation within the community – we study Torah, serve our country and provide for our families," he said.
In 2008 the IDF set up two technological training programs for its Orthodox servicemen, one providing IT training and one offering aircraft maintenance training.
The non-combatant setting has proved successful and many seem to prefer it to the religious community's other service option – national service.
The Defense Ministry said that August 2009's draft data indicated a 20% rise in the number of men enlisting in Nahal Haredi.
"The defense establishment will recruit anyone willing to join its ranks. Those places in the brigade are all ultra-Orthodox and the brigade benefits from the counsel of rabbis. There is a constant effort to improve their service conditions and all activities are carried out with their needs in mind," the ministry stated in response.