A nearly completed detainment facility, planned to house thousands of African migrants, may be transformed into an army base to absorb hundreds of new recruits after the government passes legislation forcing ultra-Orthodox men to enlist into military or national service.
The large facility, whose rapid construction cost millions of shekels, was originally meant to function as a detention center for roughly 6,000 migrants who crossed the border from Egypt illegally. But in light of the drastic decline in the number of migrants entering the country in recent months — following the completion of an effective border fence — it is no longer clear that such a facility is necessary, Maariv reported Tuesday.
The facility’s construction was assigned to the Ministry of Defense, which was supposed to turn it over to the Interior Ministry to operate upon completion. Construction went ahead at a frantic pace and the center already features housing facilities, dining rooms, administrative offices and guard posts, but three months ago, in light of the developments, work was frozen. Now the Defense Ministry is mulling handing over the facility to the IDF to use either as a base for the Givati Brigade, or as an absorption center for Haredi recruits.
The drafting of ultra-Orthodox men into the military was one of the main issues in the January elections and coalition talks since then. The emerging compromise on ultra-Orthodox military service could see 1,500-2,000 scholars exempted from service each year — a far higher number than the 400 cap the centrist Yesh Atid had sought. Ultra-Orthodox men may be called for service at age 22, not 18, in another reported compromise.
“It is clear to us that the enlistment of thousands of ultra-Orthodox youth will require us to prepare accordingly,” an army official told Maariv. The source explained that the strict Kashrut requirements of the potential recruits and the necessity of housing them in a base that does not have women soldiers on it are some of the special considerations given to the matter.
Sources in the defense establishment confirmed to Maariv that the idea of repurposing the facility was being debated, but that for the time being it is still being treated as a detention center based on the government’s decision.
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