"I feel like a pioneer and I hope many follow my lead," Second Lieutenant Israel, 28, told Ynet about the IDF course intended for yeshiva students who want to step out into the job market, but did not serve in the army.
Ever since this special course was opened, nearly two years ago, close to 200 haredi and religious soldiers ages 22 to 27 have enlisted into the Military Intelligence Branch. The project consists of professional training, including learning to become a programmer, a computer network supervisor, and a software analyst, allowing them to integrate in the job market.
The religious soldiers in the program service between 16 to 24 months and are eligible for a full salary for as their entire service and training period.
'Had to explain it to my wife's family'
Two of the course graduates, Second-Lieutenant Yisrael, a married man and father of two, and Second-Lieutenant Dudi, 24, also married and a father of one, were yeshiva students not too long ago until they decided they needed change.
"I went to the best yeshivas until I was 25, but it was clear to me that one day I'll enlist," said Yisrael. "I come from a haredi family, but my grandfather is a Holocaust survivor… My wife's family reacted a little differently to my decision. I had to explain it more."
Dudi, on the other hand, left his yeshiva at age 21, after which he learned of the course. The young officer revealed this move was especially surprising to his family, but eventually they came around. "They are very proud of me today," he said.
Both men had to make up for the educational gaps between religious and secular schools, learning English and Math. They completed boot camp training in an all boys' department and later were placed in a special room for the course's all male soldiers.
"As time went by I realized that what I was doing was the right thing even from an ideological aspect," Dudi explained his decision to become an officer later on. "It's true Zionism and there's a lot to contribute."
The two are now the first and only haredi officers in the Military Intelligence Branch, which gives them great satisfaction. "It's a small piece of history and hopefully not the last," said Dudi.
Yisrael added that for this to happen the message must be spread across the haredi community. "Everybody is familiar with the statistics on how many first-grade students there are in the haredi sector. It's important we don't reach a point when none of them join the army. That's why we're pioneers and we must get others to follow our lead."
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