Haredi soldier verbally abused on Bnei Brak street

Video posted online shows example of plight of many haredi IDF soldiers, who are often jeered and heckled on the streets in haredi cities.

Shai Landesman ,

A haredi soldier
A haredi soldier
Photo: Flash 90

As the number of haredim serving in the IDF steadily rises, many of them find themselves facing challenges and opposition, sometimes extreme, from home.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu mentioned the progress in haredi integration in the IDF as one of the accomplishments of the current government in his question and answer session in the Knesset Monday night, but full acceptance of the reality of haredi soldiers by their own society might be slower in coming.

'L', a father of two, is a haredi soldier who lives in the haredi city of Bnei Brak. When he goes to pick up his daughter from kindergarten, in uniform, he is regularly confronted by groups of haredi children screaming the derogatory term "hardak" at him, and yelling at him to leave.

The term "hardak", serves as a kind of slur against haredi soldiers. It's a play on words, as it is both a loose Hebrew acronym for "lightweight haredi", meaning one who is easily swayed from his haredi beliefs and lifestyle; and reminiscent of the Hebrew word for germ.

The term comes from a campaign meant to demonize haredim who serve in the army. In haredi neighborhoods throughout the country, glossy illustrated posters and pamphlets were distributed, portraying haredi soldiers as germ-like in the sense that they "infect" haredi society with foreign influences. "Hardakim" are shown as traitors plotting the destruction of Judaism, and are often illustrated as pigs. The similarity to Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda wasn't lost on the general public, and the majority of the haredi public simply dismissed the campaign as the ramblings of extremists, but the slur "hardak" caught on among children in some of the more extreme elements of haredi society.

One day L decided to film the children shouting at him. In the video, several children are seen yelling "Hardak, get out of here". The soldier's young daughter is then heard replying "He's not a hardak, he's my dad," to which the heckling children reply "You're father is a Hardak!"

In an interview with Channel 2 online, L said that while he's already used to the jeers, his daughter was also being affected by them, so he decided to make a video and post it. He also emphasized that the great majority of people in Bnei Brak don't behave this way, but there is a small group of extremists who teach their children to make haredi soldiers feel unwelcome on the streets.