Haredim campaign against ‘soul hunting’ army recruiters
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Haredim campaign against ‘soul hunting’ army recruiters

Pamphlets targeting ‘professional missionaries’ are latest weapon in ultra-Orthodox battle over IDF enlistment

An image from the "Soul Hunters" pamphlet targeting Haredi soldiers who recruit ultra-Orthodox men into the army.
An image from the "Soul Hunters" pamphlet targeting Haredi soldiers who recruit ultra-Orthodox men into the army.

A series of pamphlets exposing personal details of Haredi men serving in the IDF were distributed in ultra-Orthodox circles this week, as part of an organized campaign against attempts to “corrupt their community” by advancing a universal draft.

Under the title “Soul Hunters,” the leaflets focused on men in recruitment positions, describing them as “professional missionaries under Haredi guise” who “sold their souls to the devil for financial gain.”

The IDF on Wednesday condemned the anonymous authors, saying their actions were “inconsistent with the state’s democratic values and the values of the Jewish people,” and said they would give copies of the pamphlets to the police.

“The IDF is in constant communication with the Haredi community, and these publications do not represent them,” an IDF spokesman told Haredi news site Haredim10. “This is incitement against those serving, and must be condemned and denounced vehemently.”

An image from the "Soul Hunters" pamphlet, grieving the Haredi men who were enlisted into the IDF.
An image from the “Soul Hunters” pamphlet, grieving the Haredi men who were enlisted into the IDF.

Spread out across 17 pages, the names, addresses, job titles and phone numbers of the combatants were published alongside their photos.

The authors of the pamphlets also added intimate details from the soldiers’ personal lives. One soldier was labeled a “Ponevezh [Yeshiva] graduate and divorcee,” while another was described as a “yeshiva dropout who fell into the army and had a spiritual breakdown.”

The public was warned to steer clear of “a seemingly ordinary man visiting Yeshivas who was handing the army information about who to “take down” and revoke their Yeshiva-student status.”

The final page of one of the pamphlets included a graphic of a headstone surrounded by memorial candles in a mock-eulogy for the “thousands of deceased who fell at the hands of Givati and Netzah Yehuda,” referring to the — very much alive — soldiers and veterans of the Givati Brigade’s Haredi battalion and the Netzah Yehuda battalion (colloquially known as Nahal Haredi).

Although coalition agreements between the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud promise to dismantle legislation to include the ultra-Orthodox in Israel’s mandatory military draft, it remains a contentious issue within ultra-Orthodox circles.

In October, posters caricaturing Haredim serving in the IDF as pigs were pasted on walls in some of Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

“They sent me to confuse the boys in the seminaries, and dry out their souls,” the caricature pig-soldier brags in the text of the posters. “I fool them with slogans from the Gemara, but in effect I’m something else entirely.”

Last September, government officials said ultra-Orthodox recruitment was up 39 percent. The 2013-2014 conscription cycle saw 1,972 ultra-Orthodox youth enlist in the IDF, up from 1,416 in 2012-2013 and from 1,327 in 2011-2012, according to the committee tasked with monitoring the implementation of the law.

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