Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Thursday visited the Meitav Base for IDF absorption and placement, where he spoke with young hareidi recruits who will serve in the Netzach Yehuda Brigade, known as Nahal Hareidi.
"I don't believe in force and coercion," stressed Ya'alon, noting the importance of consideration for hareidim, and of allowing hareidi soldiers to maintain their lifestyle.
The issue of hareidi enlistment has been a hot topic, particularly since the controversial Enlistment Law was passed two weeks ago. The law has been a source of tension among many hareidi leaders who want their youth to study Torah full-time in yeshivas instead of enlisting.
"We decided even after the law was passed that there will always be those who stay to study - diligent prodigies," commented Ya'alon. "Their number is limited to 1,800. I don't know how many we will really need to preserve, maybe less, maybe more.
Ya'alon remarked "I do know that we will advance the application of the law and we will see how we manage the growing enlistment goals in the hareidi public from year to year, while enabling the path of Torah study."
"Magnificent work in Jenin"
Ya'alon addressed the raid in Jenin Saturday night, in which a Hamas terrorist was killed after resisting arrest and firing on soldiers, and later an Islamic Jihad terrorist was killed after he and other local Arabs attacked the soldiers. Nahal Hareidi soldiers were central to the mission.
"The Netzach Yehuda brigade took part in that mission and did magnificent work, like it did magnificent work in many incidents in recent years, mostly in the war on terror in Judea and Samaria," noted Ya'alon. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has also praised the unit for its work in the mission.
The defense minister noted the unit is unique "because it's a brigade that preserves the hareidi lifestyle and it's important for us to keep it as such, most importantly to enable young hareidim to enlist in the army. I intentionally say 'enable' because I know well the challenge to enlist faced by young hareidim."
Backlash in the hareidi community
Ya'alon spoke of some of the backlash from the hareidi community against those who do fulfill their obligations to the state by enlisting, noting the shunning that at times has even turned into violence against hareidi soldiers by their own community.
"Unfortunately in the Israeli reality, sometimes a young hareidi man that goes to enlist has unpleasant experiences at home, to the extent that he is cut off from his family, and several serve as lone soldiers as a result," noted Ya'alon, speaking of the isolation some hareidi soldiers are confronted with.
The defense minister remarked the social shunning "is a challenge that is unique to (hareidi soldiers). Here too, in the brigade and in the army in general, we know to help, to take care of soldiers and make the (army) service as easy as possible as a result of that reality.'