For years, the treatment of hareidi-religious soldiers in the Israeli army has been based on oral agreements and yet-to-be-signed orders, orders which were subject to abuse in certain divisions. But on Sunday, IDF officials finally signed a written order outlining in full the mandatory procedures for accommodating hareidi-religious soldiers.
Special conditions have been extended to soldiers from religious units such as Nahal and Shachar, in which high standards of kashrut are maintained, Shabbat is strictly observed and there is complete separation between male and female soldiers.
However, these conditions were based on oral agreements, which meant that soldiers had nowhere to turn to when they felt these conditions were not being met. Soldiers voiced frustration that because the agreements were not binding, some commanders refused to follow them as promised.
Eliyahu Lax, Chairman of the Organization for the Religious Soldier, has made repeated calls for official guidelines and has claimed that public promises to make army service more religious-friendly do not always materialize and that the lack of a written standard regarding the treatment of hareidi-religious soldiers in the army makes the situation even more complicated.
So it was received with much fanfare when IDF Senior Staff signed official orders regulating service conditions for hareidim integrated into the IDF.
Based upon the newly signed agreement, the IDF is officially ordered to provide the soldiers with strictly kosher food, optimal Sabbath observance and complete gender segregation, in addition to regular Torah study and ample time for prayer three times a day.
Lax hailed the official legislation, and said that after years of dealing with the frustration of a lack of written regulations, "We were delighted to hear about the signing of the official orders, which guarantees the rights of religious and hareidi-religious soldiers to serve in a way which suits their lifestyle."
He added that this "logical step" would go a long way in strengthening the relationship between the hareidi-religious community and the IDF - a relationship, he claims, which was marred by mistrust due to oral orders not being carried out as promised.
He also said that additional action needs to be taken to lessen what he called the discrimination of hareidim in the army and said that even with the new official orders more needs to be done to ensure the enforcement of the orders and to ensure that the hareidim are able to serve the country and adhere to their religious obligations at the same time.