Netzach Yehuda soldiers (illustrative)
Netzach Yehuda soldiers (illustrative)Hillel Meir/TPS

Brigadier General (res.) Yehuda Duvdevani, founder of the Nahal Haredi and Netzah Yehuda Battalions, says that currently it is impossible to give in any longer and that recruitment by the haredi public must be increased.

In an interview with Benny Teitelbaum at Kan Moreshet, Duvdevani told how the first haredi battalion was established in the IDF. "Twenty-five years ago, when I served as head of youth, Nahal and National Missions Division in the Ministry of Defense, I recruited thirty-one haredi youngsters to become fighters in the IDF. They were the 'pioneers.’ We encountered great difficulties and many did not believe that the project would succeed. They told me, 'Ben-Gurion didn't succeed, Rabin didn't succeed.' But with help and a partnership, together with a group of rabbis and with the blessing of Rabbi Ovadia Yose and Rabbi Shteinman, Rabbi Ovadia gave me his famous slap, and that was his approval to recruit the haredim into the IDF."

"We acted with tremendous dedication and true faith in bringing haredi youth into the IDF. Today the battalion is the bridge between secular and haredi Jews in the IDF and in Israeli society, in general," added Duvdevani.

When asked what he says to rabbis who oppose the draft today, Duvdevani replied: "To all those who say that we should only be studying, I say that we are in a state of war and we must sanctify Heaven every day in depth, in unity, with a mighty spirit. It is inconceivable that the haredi population does not take part. The IDF opened its ranks. Over 15,000 haredi youth have served in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion. Even now, the Netzah Yehuda Battalion has been serving in Gaza for two weeks. The Arrow Paratroopers and Tomer Battalions in Givati have been in Gaza since the beginning of the war. These are amazing guys who give us all a boost of faith."

Duvdevani also responded to the claim that many of the soldiers currently serving in the battalion are not haredi at all: "At the time I decided that one-third of the recruits would not be haredi, in order to bring all kinds of courses into the battalion, into the army. I have to meet the challenge I set for myself – I took them out of their homes, I will guard them, and return them to their homes at the end of their service."

Duvdevani believes that with a little flexibility, it will be possible to find compromises that will be acceptable to the haredi sector. He explained, "We need to sit down and talk. If you want to mix politics and business, that's something else. It is inconceivable that such a large and growing public will not take part. Look at the Religious Zionist sector and see their contribution. Aren’t they learning and aren’t they serving in faith? Everything can be done through dialogue, and whoever is really studying eighteen hours a day, should sit and study, and strengthen us through Torah. But the thousands who come and sign up for two hours a month and the rabbis approve it – this is very serious. They need to come and contribute, and not only in the IDF. There are many options today. We need to talk about how to do it in good spirits, how they can share the responsibilities with us."

"The people of Israel these days need unity, an agreement, to share the responsibilities between us all – a knitted kippah (skullcap), a black kippah, no kippah. We are all one battle team. Whoever isn’t studying - someone should put a hand on their shoulder and tell them to go do something good for the IDF," he concluded.