IDF requests work history of Haredi men in apparent bid to target recruits

In its effort to identify which yeshiva students to draft, the military may be looking for men who work illegally despite their army service exemptions for Torah study

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Illustrative: Haredi students study at the Kamenitz Yeshiva, in Jerusalem, August 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: Haredi students study at the Kamenitz Yeshiva, in Jerusalem, August 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces has asked the National Insurance Institute, Israel’s social security agency, to provide it with the employment details of young ultra-Orthodox men who are eligible for military service.

The request, first reported by the Calcalist newspaper on Wednesday, appears designed to identify young Haredi men who while supposedly studying in yeshiva, and receiving military service exemptions as a result, were actually working and receiving a salary.

A National Insurance Institute spokesperson on Thursday confirmed to The Times of Israel that the IDF had indeed reached out for the employment history of haredi men liable to be drafted.

Against the backdrop of a recent High Court ruling that the IDF must begin to draft Haredi yeshiva students into the army, it seems that the military first intends to send conscription orders to men who are not involved in yeshiva study, which the Haredi rabbinic leadership insists cannot be interrupted for military service.

It is illegal for yeshiva students with military service exemptions to work, but the various state institutions and government ministries dealing with military service and employment appear not to be coordinated in terms of monitoring and enforcing the law.

Last month, the High Court ruled that there was no longer any legal framework allowing the state to refrain from drafting haredi yeshiva students into military service and the attorney general ordered the government to immediately begin the process of conscription for 4,800 such men.

The army faces a problem, however, of how to choose which men should be drafted from the pool of 63,000 ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews clash with police during a protest against the drafting of Haredim to the military, on Route 4 outside of Bnei Brak, June 27, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Haredi religious and political leadership would fiercely resist and protest any effort to draft mainstream yeshiva students who are actually involved in religious study, and may also protest drafting even men more on the margins of the community.

Issuing conscription orders to men who have effectively been cheating the system would make sense since they were legally liable to the draft even before the court ruling was issued.

The Haredi leadership may also find it harder to justify mass protests against the draft for such men.

Other possible sources of conscripts might be so-called “drop-out yeshivas,” or institutions designed to keep some Haredi men who are not interested in full-time religious study within a Haredi framework to prevent them from leaving the community.

According to the Calcalist report, the army requested the employment details of young ultra-Orthodox men liable for the draft in May, but has yet to receive the requested data.

This may explain the ongoing delay by the army, even since the High Court ruling, in issuing conscription orders to any of the 63,000 Haredi men now liable for the draft.

The IDF has the state ID numbers of all men liable for the draft, including haredim, while the National Insurance Institute has the employment details of every citizen in the country, so in theory the IDF should be able to obtain the data it seeks relatively easily.

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