According to soldiers serving in the IDF via Shahar haredi integration program, they are heckled, cursed and at times even threatened by members of their communities. The IDF has nonetheless decided that they will remain in military garb, as other IDF soldiers do.
- Next generation of ultra-Orthodox recruits
An IDF Personnel Directorate committee appointed to review issues pertaining to haredi conscription, received over 60 requests to allow the soldiers to ride public transportation for free without wearing their uniforms; of the 60 requests filed, a fewer than 20 were granted, Ynet has learned.
In Israel, IDF soldiers travel on public transportation for free if they are in IDF uniform. However, community pressure regarding enlistment to the IDF in the haredi street puts these soldiers in a bind, forcing them to choose between their right to a free ride and living in peace with neighbors.
One of those requests was filed by a soldier living in the haredi neighborhood Bayit VeGan in Jerusalem. According to his wife, he is bombarded with insults when he walks the streets back to his house.
"Our families support us, but they didn’t know my husband serves in the army. If they did, we would lose their financial support," she claimed.
"Principals of Talmudic schools do not accept boys whose fathers serve in the army, and almost every time he returns home, haredi youths spit, curse and threaten him."
The wife added that her husband's commander recommended that he be exempt from wearing IDF uniform outside the military facilities, but he was not granted exemption.
"Despite the fact that we are haredim, we're proud to serve our country," another soldier who was denied the exemption noted, "and serving in the IDF benefits us as well, both presently and in the future, both in economic and in social terms, as well as aiding our personal development."However, "in the last few weeks, since the legislating process regarding haredi enlistment has been put on the fast track, the (haredi) street is ablaze and we have become its victims.
"They call us names, say we are impure and threaten our children. Some of us are forced to hide and – in violation of army directives – change into our army uniforms in the bathroom of Jerusalem's central bus station, and then take the bus home at our own expense."
It is worth noting that haredi soldiers who received the much desired exemption are those whose army service requires them to go deep into haredi neighborhoods and try to convince ultra-orthodox boys to enlist.
The committee is trying – through a better understanding of the haredi street and cooperation with leading yeshiva heads – to make it easier for 1,300 haredim currently serving in the IDF, all the while reiterating the fact that as IDF soldiers who enlisted, they knew that the uniforms were mandatory and an integral part of army service.
The IDF Spokesperson Unit said in response: "Soldiers serving through the Shahar (haredi integration) service track are aware that service in the IDF entails wearing a uniform like every other IDF soldier.
"In light of the sensitivity of the issue and taking into account unique circumstances in which commuting in uniform is truly impossible, the committee deals with each request individually."
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