Pre-military preparatory courses have been part and parcel with the IDF experience for some time now, so much so that various options have sprung up over the years. A young person facing enlistment can choose from a religious, secular, or Druze preparatory course. There is even a prep course for religious girls. This year, another pre-military preparatory course joins the 36 that already exist – a haredi preparatory course.
"This is a course tailored for haredi boys leaving their frameworks and who want to enlist in any case," said the head of the prep course, Rabbi Moshik Ben-Or. "The whole summer we advertised and built a lobby of rabbis to support the course. Until now, 15 people have already signed up. In my estimation, there is enormous potential for high levels of haredi participants."
The course, named Nerot Le'Ha'ir, kicked off its first school year on Sunday. The participants will all enlist to the Nahal Haredi Brigade in another year and a half. Their curriculum includes workout sessions, kung-fu, survival training, membership to a country club (during gender-segregated swimming hours, of course), and a rappelling course. In addition, the students will regularly attend lessons in Hasidism and will be taught daily lessons from a Hasidic teacher.
Ben-Or said, "The military put together a plan for us with lessons in combat legacy, tours of factories and universities. We will also bring them together with haredim who have integrated into the upper echelons of the State in order to direct them towards leadership positions. We give them freedom. They can even wear jeans if they want. Only on Shabbat are they required to wear a suit and hat, just like there are dress uniforms in the military."
In the haredi world, where enlistment into the military is almost completely shunned, such a course is a real breakthrough.
"This is another aspect of the change the haredi public is undergoing," explained David Zoldan, one of the first soldiers in Nahal Haredi.
"In general, the haredi public is changing. Ten years ago, such a thing wouldn't work. Except for the Eda Haharedit, which opposes everything, it won't cause a real earthquake. The Lithuanian community won't oppose it, just like it isn't opposed to enlisting into the Air Force or Nahal Haredi, but it will never oppose it publicly. There is no doubt that this is another step on the way to more inclusive enlistment.
"If this rate continues, there will be a very professional haredi brigade in another 10 years, God willing."
The preparatory course's leaders hope to attract more and more students, and thereby help solve the problem of haredi youth who drop out of their study frameworks, a growing phenomenon in the haredi world.
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