Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon
Defense Minister Moshe YaalonFlash 90

Leaders of the religious Zionist movement on Sunday expressed regret and disappointment at the order handed down earlier Sunday by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon that will require Hesder yeshiva students to serve in the IDF for 24 months, an increase of 8 months over the current requirement.

Under the Hesder program, youths study Torah in a yeshiva and serve in the army over a five-year period. The army service is generally split into two parts, with students learning Torah in yeshiva before and during their service.

As part of the “reevaluation” in Israeli society – or perhaps more correctly, among Israeli politicians and media figures – in which secular politicians are demanding that hareidi yeshiva students serve in the IDF, Hesder programs have not gone unscathed, and there have been demands that Hesder students serve more time in the army.

Previously, Yaalon and top IDF brass had resisted those calls, but leaders in the religious Zionist movement said Sunday that Yaalon's decision to change the rules and require new students to serve for 24 months was apparently a case of his capitulating to media pressure. “We didn't think Yaalon would so easily be swayed by the PR campaign against the religious public,” the leaders said. “We hope Yaalon will reconsider, taking into account the contribution of the Hesder institutions,” they added.

Just four months ago, the leaders said, “Yaalon visited the Hesder yeshivas, and praised the integration of the spiritual strength and physical strength. Apparently this was just 'talk' on Yaalon's part, and he is now working against the Hesder yeshivas,” they added.