A few months following the expiration of the Tal Law last year Ravit, a screening officer at one of the regional induction centers, started receiving 17-year-old Haredi draftees. Their attitude at all stages of the process could be described as uncooperative at best and offensive at worst.
"It doesn't make sense to them to see a woman is in a position of superiority," she says. "Sometimes they would not talk to me; sometimes they would refuse to complete a questionnaire with the pen I gave them as it was touched by a woman. Some requested to be profiled by male instructors. Some even hurled their ID cards at me to avoid any contact between us."
Since last year the regional recruitment offices received more than 3,000 haredi youths for initial screening procedures, intended to be the first step in a long military service. While the IDF prides itself on the fact, an examination by Ynet shows that many of these young people do not cooperate during the phases of the process, and in fact do everything to convey the unambiguous message "We have no intention of joining you and you would be better served by not wasting any time on us."
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While the Peri Committee is doing its best to communicate optimism regarding the possibility of integrating haredi youths within the Israeli military, the reality of what goes on once the yeshiva students enter the induction centers tells another story. IDF sources say the recruits do the bare minimum to avoid being categorized as draft dodgers, and that's where their cooperation ends.
As one officer at a recruitment center put it, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Equally, you can get the haredi youths to the induction center, but not force them to become full-fledged soldiers."
The first conscription order is a crucial step in the career of every IDF soldier. In several hours of evaluations, interviews and medical examinations, a profile is compiled that determines the potential range of roles and units where the recruit might serve. Yet the majority of the haredi recruits refuse to answer even the most basic questions regarding their home address or telephone number.
"Don't you realize we're the ones that guarantee the security of the state with our prayers?" one yeshiva student asked his screening officers. Others spoke only Yiddish, refusing to speak Hebrew to the screening officers despite speaking the language perfectly well outside the induction office. Finally, some said they would enlist only if the IDF did their matchmaking for them and supplied them with brides.
"I could've done well at the psychometric tests as I know math, but I picked the wrong answers deliberately," one reluctant recruit told Ynet. "We just wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. We won't go to the army any way, what does it matter then if my marks in the tests are low?"
Other draftees said they thought the IDF could have made things easier to them by selecting exclusively male screening officers to hold the tests.
The IDF Spokesperson's Office responded in a statement, saying it takes all the appropriate measures to enable fair and productive screening procedures to the ultra-Orthodox recruits. They added the success of the process crucially depends on the draftees' willingness to collaborate; and failure to do so might result in a placement that bears no correspondence to the recruit's capabilities.
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