About 2000 yeshiva students did national or military service in 2009, a number five times greater than the number of haredim who served until two years ago (around 300 or 400 per year), according to a report by the organization Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality.
The report, submitted to the chairman of the Knesset's Tal Law supervision panel Knesset Member Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), notes that 1,070 yeshiva students did national service in 2009 and 700 joined haredi units in the IDF. About 300 join haredi Nahal units each year and a further 50 sign up as military teachers.
Shahar Ilan, assistant director general of research at Hiddush, said, "The idea of 2,000 yeshiva students serving in the army was unthinkable a decade ago." The document also raises the possibility that this phenomenon reflects the end of the taboo against national or military service within the haredi population.
Ilan also expressed several reservations. Those serving amount to only 3.5% of hesder yeshiva students (who number about 55,000). The rise in those serving is also far from reflecting the expected rise in the number of yeshiva students granted exemption from serving. It is expected that in 2019, some 13,000 yeshiva students will be exempt (compared with 5,500 in 2009).
He also noted that about 80% of those opting for national service volunteer in haredi charitable organizations, which amounts to a kind of state budget allocation to these organizations.
Hiddush CEO Uri Regev praised the development and said it proved that yeshiva students can certainly do military service like everyone else. The data, he said, also showed how important it is to teach general studies like mathematics and English in haredi institutions, which would assist their students to integrate into good employment positions.