IDF confirms 1,300 to be recruited early from pre-army programs

Months shaved off of army prep, yeshiva and community service programs; facing High Court petition, army raises number of those drafted from yeshivas

Ultra-Orthodox men who decided to join the IDF amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas arrive at the IDF recruiting offices in Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv, October 23, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox men who decided to join the IDF amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas arrive at the IDF recruiting offices in Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv, October 23, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces will hold an early recruitment round in March of some 1,300 Israelis currently enrolled in pre-army, yeshiva, and community service programs, the military and Defense Ministry announced in a joint statement.

Most prospective enlistees to be drafted in this round has been slated to finish their programs at the end of the academic year in June and then enlist sometime after that, depending on their IDF track. People in the second year of a two-year program will be chosen to be called up early over those in their first.

The announcement confirmed previous reports that discussions on the matter between IDF officials and the administrators of pre-army programs had taken place.

The purpose of the early recruitment “is to strengthen combat units in light of the needs of battle… against the backdrop of the war, the turnover of casualties and the necessity to fill the ranks and expand combat forces,” the statement said.

The recruitment will be done in conjunction with the various program organizers to minimize harm to the programs and candidates, who potentially could miss out on certain military tracks because they enlisted early.

About 850 trainees will be recruited from the pre-army and community service year programs, and about 450 more from yeshivas, with an emphasis on those already slated to enlist this year, the statement said. Potential candidates who were evacuated from their homes near the Gaza and Lebanon borders due to the Israel-Hamas war will not be recruited early.

Young Israeli men line up as they arrive at the IDF recruitment center at Tel Hashomer on July 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to a report in the Haaretz daily, the number of yeshiva students being enlisted early originally stood at 150 but was raised to 450 after protests from parents and program directors, who said the large difference in yeshiva numbers and pre-army and community service programs meant the burden was being shared unequally.

The accusation stemmed from the fact that while pre-army and community programs are for the most part single-year programs, meaning early recruitment will cause the participants to miss out on key parts of the programs, most yeshiva programs run for two years.

There are dozens of pre-army academies in Israel, with over 4,000 students. Acceptance is highly competitive and can involve a lengthy application process. Many pre-army academy students go on to join elite commando units, undergo officer training, or fill other high-level roles in the army.

High school graduates who join service year programs engage in volunteer work of various kinds, in some cases with Jewish communities abroad.

According to the report, parents from the Mothers on the Front group with kids in community service programs petitioned the High Court of Justice against the IDF’s original recruitment numbers on Tuesday. Despite the army’s statement showing a rise in yeshiva student numbers, the petition will go forward.

The IDF recruiting offices in Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv, October 23, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“Our pressure helped reduce the numbers of participants in the pre-army and community service programs and has helped the IDF locate another 150 yeshiva students, but there’s still no equality here,” lawyer Ayelet Hashachar Saidof was quoted as saying. “We won’t stop until we see a total change in the policy.”

The war broke out on October 7, when Hamas launched an onslaught into southern Israel, where terrorists overran military bases, communities, and a music festival, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, amid widespread scenes of horrific abuse. The terrorists also took 253 hostages, about half of whom remain in Gaza.

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