Sources in the IDF expressed concern over an apparent loss of motivation for enlistment into the military's religious brigade, Nahal. The officials noted a sharp decline in the number of haredim recruited in recent draft rounds.
The IDF claims that public sentiments in recent months around the new Haredi Draft law has pushed the ultra-Orthodox Jews away from the military and back into the yeshiva.
According to official IDF statistics, only 140 fighters enlisted into Nahal, 30 percent less than the number of fighters recruited in the previous round. In November 2013, 200 soldiers were joined the infantry bridage, while August saw the highest number of enlisted Haredi men recorded – 226 soldiers.
As a result of the recent decline in the recruitment figures, the IDF decided to suspend the inception of an additional Haredi battalion.
The military decided to create the battalion in August 2013, expecting a surge in haredi enlistment from the passage of the Draft Law and two brigades were planned to accommodate the new battalion.
But in November, the IDF was forced to cutback half a battalion; with the latest recruitment figures, it will likely cut the other half, leaving only the original battalion.
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The IDF said the main reason for the decline is the recent public furor over the Haredi Draft law.
The Nahal Haredi Organization, which supports the religious soldiers during their military service, agreed with the IDF's assessment, but offered an additional reason for the decline: a proposal to prolong the Haredi service by four months.
"If 2013 marked a certain ease regarding the Haredi soldiers, then 2014's public dispute about the Draft Law took us back by at least a year," said the Nahal Haredi Organization.
The organization emphasized the importance of the service extension to dropping rates of enlistment. "This has started to gradually surface causing a significant decline in the motivation to enlist," said one of the organization's rabbis.
"Until today the Haredi soldiers would use the last year of service to study employment skills training – prolonging their service means damaging their studies," added the rabbi.
'Atmosphere has changed'
In light of the new law, these numbers are worrying for the Haredi public – if IDF fails to meet the goals of voluntary Haredi enlistment by 2015, as determined by law, it will lead to criminal sanctions for those who evaded the draft.
But IDF claims it will meet the goals set by the law.
In addition to Nahal, ultra-Orthodox Jews are also recruited to Shahar, a project which stands for "Shiluv Haredim" (ultra-Orthodox integration) in the Intelligence Corps, Air Force and Teleprocessing Corps, where no decline in enlistment was recorded.
The haredim who enlist to Shahar are predominantly men with families, who are interested in obtaining profession.
According to IDF statistics, in 2010, 898 Haredi joined the service, while in 2011, the number leaped to 1,282. The trend continued in 2012 with 1,447 haredim, growing to 1,858 new religious recruits in 2013.
The IDF expects 2,000 Haredi soldiers by summer 2014 to meet the quota. But end-of-year enlistment estimates are dour.
"Our recruiters are having a hard time these days," said a senior official, "They are no longer hanging around in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods like they used to, because the atmosphere has changed."
The official said the haredi soldiers face a harsh reality when they return to their families and friend: "The behavior towards the recruits has also changed. They no longer go home wearing their uniform, because Haredi society is not tolerant towards them. If we do not reach a certain agreement with the rabbis, their motivation to enlist will continue to decline," said the senior secretary.