A group of IDF commanders who were to work with new hareidi-religious recruits have been replaced at the last minute due to concerns that their irreligious lifestyles could lead to misunderstandings between them and the soldiers.
Hundreds of hareidi-religious young men are expected to join the Nachal Hareidi (Netzach Yehuda) brigade in August. The IDF is hoping that Nachal Hareidi will be a model for future, larger-scale hareidi enlistment.
The Association for the Torah-Observant Soldier, a group which helps to ensure that hareidi soldiers are given the freedom to observe their community’s laws and customs in the army, was the first to raise concerns over the plan to integrate irreligious commanders.
Colonel Udi Ben Muha, the commander of the Kfir Brigade, arranged a meeting with the commanders-to-be in order to hear their thoughts on the potential conflict between their own lifestyles and those of the hareidi soldiers.
The commanders asked how they would be expected to behave. Among other things, commanders asked if they would still be allowed to smoke cigarettes, listen to music and watch television on the Sabbath.
The questions led senior commanders to decide that the commanders in question would have difficulty understanding and working with hareidi soldiers, and to replace them with commanders who are more familiar with the hareidi way of life. They expressed belief that both the commanders and the new recruits would benefit from the switch.
“The situation left no choice but to change the command,” a senior military source explained. “It’s better to do so at the last minute, than to run into problems later.”
“Imagine what might happen if the soldiers saw their commander holding a newspaper with immodest images,” he continued. “It could be very problematic, both for them and for the commander, who is supposed to earn their trust.”
The Association for the Torah-Observant Soldier praised Ben-Muha for his understanding. “It’s good that there are sensitive commanders, who prevented a situation that would have been upsetting to hareidi soldiers and would have seriously undermined the recruitment to Netzach Yehuda,” said the association’s rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Goldreich.