Many units in the IDF are considered to be attractive to religious soldiers, but the Navy’s combat units are not usually assumed to be included in that list.
The reason for this is the real difficulty in conducting a proper religious life when one serves out at sea. This has deterred many religious soldiers from integrating in the Navy and trying to change the situation.
However, in recent years the Navy has started integrating religious soldiers, and the IDF has reported an increase in the motivation among religious soldiers to take part in the various courses in the Navy. In the beginning, reported the IDF, the interest came mainly from graduates of pre-military academies, but today there are frameworks in which hesder yeshiva students are integrated as well.
Arutz Sheva met Lieutenant Chen Shalit, one of the religious naval officers serving on a missile boat off the coast of Haifa. Shalit, who is married, is a graduate of the hesder yeshiva in the city of Akko.
“Four years ago, more or less after I enlisted in the army, a new track of fighters who are graduates of hesder yeshivas began at the Navy,” recalled Shalit, who spoke enthusiastically about his army service and said that the Navy “is a place that can develop religious soldiers from a professional, moral and social aspect.”
“Because we were a large group of religious guys at the beginning of the course, it made our lives a lot easier, in terms of a minyan and kashrut, and since integrating religious soldiers into the Navy is a process which is being built, we got all the services, all the options, anything we needed,” he recalled. “The sailors’ course, from a religious-spiritual aspect, was really an extraordinary experience. When I finished the course and entered the naval ships I discovered a family. Whoever comes here learns to understand that the missile boat is a home. It’s a place where you do everything, be it training exercises, leisure activities, or study.”
Shalit admitted that he sees his army service as a mission but that “it’s very difficult.”
“I’m a very family-oriented person and my wife is an amazing woman and it’s tough to be without her,” he said, “but when my wife looks at my army service she sees it as her army service. She did national service and she comes here every other Shabbat and spends Shabbat with us here on the boat. She sees it as a mission and I see it as a mission. It’s a mission for both of us and it’s a sacrifice for both of us. There’s no doubt that it’s not simple, but if we don’t do it who will?”