A New ‘Hesder’: Religious-Zionist Youth to Join the Police
It wasn’t planned this way, but just days after police shot pneumatic bullets at outpost residents and then lied about it – according to witnesses who were there – an agreement has been signed paving the way for groups of Torah students to join the ranks.
Groups of 25 religious students who spent a year in a pre-military Torah academy will be able to sign up for a special 3.5-year course leading to positions among the police officer ranks. The students will also come out with field work experience and a B.A. degree.
The man behind the idea is Nechi Eyal, chairman of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, who conceived and brought about the agreement in his capacity as one of the heads of the Elisha Pre-Military Yeshiva Academy (mekhina). The academy is located in N’vei Tzuf in western Binyamin, 20 kilometers southeast of Petah Tikva.
“The idea has been in the works for three years,” Eyal told Israel National News, “and the negotiations with the police have not been easy. It’s a very detailed program, involving how many weeks the students will be in their police studies, when and for how long they will return to the mekhina, where they will be stationed, which departments of the police they will work with, and more.”
“The police, for their part, wanted to know why our students should be treated as a group,” Eyal said, “and not as individuals, like any other person who wants to join the police. We had to explain that for our students, this is a quantum jump; they are not accustomed to dealing with the ‘clientele’ that the police have to work with – criminals, family violence, and the like…"
"But the police realize that they can gain twice in coming towards us in this: They will get quality manpower, and it will help decrease the strong existing tensions between them and the religious-Zionist public.”
“This is a very long-term process,” Eyal explains. “The pre-military academies have been around for 25 years, and only now are we really seeing the fruits – religious officers in all levels of the IDF command - and there is still more to go! The same with the police, but only harder: If we want to have an influence on the country and on the police, we have to be there.”
Eyal said that after his son was seriously injured during the extreme police violence at Amona five years ago, “I was very angry at the police. I did all sorts of things: Polls and surveys showing that the public has no confidence in the police, filed suits in court against specific policemen, and lots of things - but in the end, when I took stock of what I had done, I saw that I actually accomplished relatively little in terms of making a real difference. I realized that I had to work differently in order to make a real change.”
“Each student candidate will have to undergo two tests,” Eyal said. “One is from the police, to see if they wish to accept him – and one is from us, the mekina, to see if he has the necessary strength of character to face the difficult challenges that surely await him. We are very aware of the mode of behavior in the police that is very different than that to which our students are accustomed – but we hope that in the end, there will be a change, and the type of violence that we saw last week in Gilad Farm, for instance, will be very rare, if at all.”
The students will chiefly work in the fields of patrol, detective work, and investigations.
Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen called the initiative a “strategic project.” Rabbis such as Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of Beit El have endorsed the project, and Eyal says he has a list of other supportive rabbinic personalities that he will soon publicize. "Many other mekhinot and their rabbis support us, and in fact, we signed the agreement as their representatives." He admitted that students are not yet jumping at the opportunity, though some have already signed up.
Within the religious-Zionist sector, opinion is divided. Those who object to the new plan feel that just as the attempt to effect a “friendly takeover” in the army did not stop the Disengagement, so too this new initiative will simply lead to a small group of token “skullcaps” in the police who will be forced and pressured to carry out orders not to their liking.
Eyal, in response: “Those who feel this way are short-sighted. This is the only way to effect a change, though it might take a long while.”