by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
As the demographics of Israel change, the tiny percentage of ultra-orthodox Jewish religious population exempted from the compulsory national draft is growing into a noticeable percentage, with the potential to affect IDF army manpower in the future and causing complaints of fairness now. The exemption was part of the cultural balance (the religious “status quo”) put in place to respect and support Judaism after World War II and the Holocaust by the founders of the State of Israel.
Currently, approximately 8,000 ultra-orthodox Jewish 18-year old men qualify for the draft. Of those 8,000, ~2,000 serve in the army. Another 1,200 take an approved alternative of national-social service. The remaining get either exemptions due to Jewish Torah Study or attempt to receive exemptions due to health or family circumstance.
Meaning ~40% of the ultra-orthodox Jewish young men serve the country.
(We’re not going to talk about the women. Any woman in Israel can get an automatic religious exemption by declaring a religious objection to army service. Across Israel in general, 41% of women do not service, 59% do, and almost none from the ultra-orthodox community serve.)
How’s this compare with the general (Jewish) population?
“Among men 25% do not enlist (meaning the national average is 75% who do enlist) while 40.9% of women do not enlist to the IDF.”
So the difference between the ultra-orthodox Jews of Israel and the rest of the population is… 35%.
The Israeli army, like most armies, has developed it’s own cultural environment. Due to a small population, the Israeli army is renowned for the integration of women (who often act as trainers) and cultural indoctrination (the army takes it’s people on cultural field trips, pounds in ideas about new-jew zionism and the greatness of the founders, and has various cultural events such as modern music concerts).
In the current generation, as the number of Jewishly religious soldiers has increased (moderate Jewish orthodox as well as fervently orthodox), complaints about a culture not compatible with their religious ideals grows louder. (One would be hard pressed to argue that forcing troops to stay as part of concerts with female singers and having army bands at every event with female singers makes a difference to the fighting ability of the army.)