Nahal Hareidi (Netzach Yehuda), the IDF's Hareidi-religious combat brigade, has made IDF history by winning the Chief of Staff's Prize for the first time. The brigade is also showing a sharp increase in enlistment, despite the ongoing political tension over haredi IDF service.
The prestigious prize was awarded for the unit's extraordinary achievements and operational creativity, and will be officially bestowed in the coming weeks at a ceremony for the brigade's soldiers.
Recognition for the unit's outstanding performance was decided following numerous IDF inspections, which focused on several categories, foremost among them operational quality.
Nahal Hareidi has won two prizes in recent weeks. Along with the IDF Department of Technology and Logistics' Award, it was recognized with the GOC Army Headquarters Safety Award.
The unit is also nominated for the Education Award, along with an award in Excellence in Maintaining Sector Security, issued by the Paratroop Command and Chief Infantry Officer.
The Nahal Hareidi Foundation, which helped establish the brigade and ensure appropriate conditions of service for hareidi soldiers, praised the award.
"The Nahal Hareidi brigade is the best proof that when the hareidim are given consideration and appropriate conditions are created for them, they will reach high achievements, including from an operational standpoint," commented the Foundation.
A sharp rise was recorded this year in the number of the brigade's enlisting soldiers. 286 soldiers enlisted to the unit in November, a 70% increase compared to the previous November. In annual totals, Nahal Hareidi, also known at Battalion 97, enlisted 754 soldiers, a 50% rise from last year.
It was noted in a recent discussion at the Knesset Finance Committee that Nahal Hareidi has seen a change in the background of enlisting soldiers. While in recent years a notable portion consisted of national-religious inductees, this year 80%-90% of the recruits came from hareidi yeshivas.
The Nahal Hareidi Foundation commented that the unit's achievements all come "despite the tension in the past months in the public around hareidi enlistment due to the political situation. This tension damages the integration of hareidim into the IDF and is completely unnecessary."
It has been reported that pressure by political organizations and women's groups demanding that the IDF more fully integrate female soldiers has placed the army in a position of choosing between female or hareidi soldiers. The religious observance of the hareidim requires limited contact with women.
In October, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat expressed concern that growing numbers of hareidi recruits could cause tensions with women in the IDF.