Air Force Opens New Track for Hesder Yeshivas

For the first time, the Israel Air Force has expressed interest in bringing Hesder Yeshiva students into its ranks.

Moshe Cohen,

Hesder yeshiva students (file)
Hesder yeshiva students (file)
Flash 90

The Israel Air Force is shopping around for new non-combat recruits to work in support roles – and among the places it is shopping is in the religious-Zionist Hesder Yeshiva movement. Armed with statistics showing off the “high value” of Hesder soldiers, Air Force brass have asked Hesder Yeshiva heads to promote service in the Air Force among students who are unable to make the cut for combat roles.

In most Hesder Yeshivas, students – who study Torah and perform their army service over a five year period, serving for 16 months and learning the rest of the time – generally serve in combat units, like Golani and Givati. Students who choose to go to Hesder Yeshivas are aware of this and are usually very highly-motivated to qualify and join these units. According to army statistics, 85% of Hesder students serve in these combat units.

But because the physical demands to qualify for these units are high, not all are able to make it, and often those who are unable to serve in combat units end up in supporting roles in Army Intelligence, where they remain highly-motivated and excel in their service, according to army statistics.

While some students do try out for the Air Force, they usually are forced to opt out of the yeshiva program to do so, because currently there are no learning-and-serving arrangements between the two entities – something the Air Force would like to change. In a meeting this week with representatives of the Hesder Yeshivas, Air Force brass proposed offering service in their division as an option for students. The service would include roles in support services for combat units, providing electronic information for pilots and crew, maintaining planes and technical equipment, operating radar or missile batteries, etc.

The meeting is an extension of a pilot program that was instituted several months ago, when the IDF gave permission for the Air Force to recruit five Hesder students under the learning-and-serving model. Those students have been serving for several months.

Now it appears the Air Force likes what it sees – and wants more.

Rabbi Ze'ev Karov, Chairman of the Hesder Yeshiva Association, said that “the spiritual values that Hesder students are taught spills over into the values of Zionism and serious engagement with their military service. This is the reason Air Force officials have asked to establish a Hesder program for their ranks.”

Association CEO Eitan Ozeri said that the group was working on developing more service options for students that would enable more segments of the security services to benefit from the high quality students produced by the Hesder Yeshivas.


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