Hesder soldiers
Hesder soldiersIsrael news photo: IDF

In an unprecedented move, the IDF has begun drafting students in their first year of Hesder yeshiva who are not yet registered within the framework of the Hesder system, Arutz Sheva has been informed. As a result, thousands of 18 year olds currently in Hesder yeshivot may be required to serve a full three year stint in the army, as part of the general soldier units, as opposed to the Hesder units they expected to serve in - unless they register immediately.

The five-year Hesder program mixes Torah study with IDF service. Recruits in the program spend their first year and a half in the framework studying in Yeshiva, then serve in the regular army for a year and a half, alternating with semesters of study in their Yeshiva.

While most of the Hesder students sign up for the program in advance of their studies, a sizable minority does not get around to it, attending to it during their first period of study and retroactively including that period in their service package. It is those students who are at risk of immediate draft due to an IDF bureaucratic snafu.

Administrators in many Hesder yeshivot expressed concern to Arutz Sheva Sunday, saying that the change had not been coordinated with them. As a result, administrators have descended on IDF recruitment centers to sign students up for the Hesder program officially before they are issued draft notices – at which point it would be impossible to retroactively include them in the program.

An IDF spokesperson said that the policy change was the result of the expiration of the Tal Law last year. The law regulated the type and extent of exemption or delay in army service. Without a replacement for the law, the spokesperson said, the IDF is technically obligated to issue a draft notice to every 18 year old in the country, including those in the Hesder program. The IDF decided to make an exception in that program, the spokesperson said, so students enrolled in the Hesder program can continue as they had – but anyone else who was not enrolled would be sent a draft notice, the spokesperson asserted.