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New IDF Program Gives Equal Time to Army, Torah

A new IDF “hesder” program allows recruits to spend two years in active service and two years studying Torah.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 10/19/2010, 9:23 PM / Last Update: 10/20/2010, 7:13 AM

Hesder Yeshivas Association

Seventy-five new IDF recruits are the first to take part in a special program, Shiluvim, that allows soldiers to split their time equally between active military duty and Torah study. Last week, they began preparing for their active service.

The IDF has an existing program called “hesder” (lit. “arrangement”) that allows religious men to divide their service between active duty and Torah study. However, the hesder arrangement includes 18 months of active duty, and three and a half years of Torah study. Until now, those who wish to serve for a longer period of time must leave the hesder framework - which allows them to serve in a largely religious environment - and enlist in a mixed religious-secular unit without returning to yeshiva.

The new program, whose name translates roughly to “integration,” makes it possible for young religious-Zionist soldiers to serve in a religious framework for two full years. They will learn Torah for two years, instead of the more than three years required by the hesder program.

“This meets a need that existed among yeshiva students,” said Eitan Ozeri of the Hesder Yeshivas Association. “A large group of students who in the past were turned away by the length of active service or the significant portion of service spent in yeshiva found a program that meets their needs when Shiluvim opened.”

The first group of recruits will serve in Givati units and in combat support. Following their two years of service they will return to yeshiva for another year of study.

The new program has already doubled in popularity,with the number of participants growing from 75 to 150.