"There are bigger challenges than the 'people's army' right now, and nothing will happen if they are assigned to large haredi frameworks," said an IDF official who supports the establishment of a haredi brigade. "The enlistment of haredim to the IDF is worth the cost."
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Conversely, members of the IDF's Manpower Directorate believe that the creation of a separate haredi brigade goes against the "people's army" principle. "The IDF can live with small homogenous units inside the various brigades but not with a designated haredi brigade," a source at the Manpower Directorate said.
One of the possibilities being considered is the integration of haredim in infantry companies or battalions, inspired by the Kfir Brigade's Nahal Haredi Netzah Yehuda battalion.
Proponents of this solution believe that the integration of haredim alongside other combatants will contribute to their general integration in society. However, this would require halachic solutions for a very small group of soldiers, such as a mehadrin kosher kitchen and a female-free service environment.
Multiple service routes
Meanwhile, some commanders are proposing to unify all the existing army routes for haredi soldiers. Currently, there are multiple haredi and non-haredi special programs which are causing problems in personnel planning.
For instance, one infantry brigade may contain both a 16-month and a 2-year program for yeshiva students as well as a special Mercaz Harav route of under a year. Nahal soldiers enlist for 18 months, spend a year performing educational-social assignments and then return for an additional six months at a separate unit. The Haredi Nahal route is for two years and the olim service program lasts anywhere between two and three years.
As a result, commanders experience difficulties in developing their units and soldiers are unable to embark on commander training due to the short span of their service. The new plan proposes a two-year service for combat haredi soldiers who will then spend another year in professional training or other studies.
As a first stage, the army is proposing narrowing the gaps between the various routes and unifying them into one course. Later, service conditions will be matched with those of the Nahal and olim programs.
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