Hareidim, enlistment
Hareidim, enlistment Israel news photo: Flash 90

Apparently anxious not to lose hareidi recruits, the IDF has made clear in its website that it seeks "to integrate [hareidim] without changing" them. In a detailed report outlining the "Shachar Hadash" track for hareidim, the IDF makes it clear that the service will all be carried out in a male-only environment, in accordance with the hareidi outlook.

The report appears to be an attempt by the IDF to assuage the fears of hareidim that the IDF will try to force recruits to compromise the strict religious precepts that they follow and believe in. The concerns arose after an aggressive leftist media campaign in which religious soldiers were slammed for asking to be excused during performances by women, as Jewish halakha demands. An IDF rabbi who was central to the Shachar program announced he was quitting his position due to these concerns.

The IDF Website report says about 2,000 hareidim currently serve in the IDF, but the number joining the army every year is planned to reach 2,400 in three years' time.

Hareidim in the Shachar tracks study professions that will serve them in civilian life, as programmers, technicians and more.

The program is "protected," assures the IDF Website, so as to make sure that the soldiers will not come into direct contact with a woman. The soldiers' direct commanders, up to a level of Company Commander, are all men. The program also includes daily Daf Yomi Gemara or halakha lessons, and their families receive thousands of shekels a month from the IDF.

The Shacher soldiers do not stay at their units overnight, or on Sabbaths and holidays.