Mossad, Shin Bet to take in Haredim in new national service program – report

Intelligence agencies to each employ 100 ultra-Orthodox as part of volunteer alternative to military service

Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men study in the Lithuanian Slabodka yeshiva in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, July 8, 2013. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men study in the Lithuanian Slabodka yeshiva in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, July 8, 2013. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

The Mossad spy agency and Shin Bet internal security service will begin to take in Haredi volunteers as part of a new national service program, a Monday report said.

The Mossad and Shin Bet will begin the program by each taking in 100 Haredi yeshiva students who are over the age of 21, after they undergo professional training, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The enlistees will serve for two years and the program will be financed by the Intelligence Ministry and National Service Authority.

Last week, the leaders of the Mossad and Shin Bet met with Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel to approve the new program, which is expected to launch next month, Kan reported.

National service is typically done on a volunteer basis as an alternative to mandatory military service.

The Haredi population of Israel overwhelmingly opposes performing mandated national civil or military service, seeing it as a way for secular forces to potentially draw away its members. The issue is highly contentious in Israeli society, where non-Haredi Jews overwhelmingly serve in the military.

While soldiers are generally drafted from age 18, many yeshiva students claim academic deferments and are thought to remain in religious study programs longer than they otherwise would, in order to dodge the draft until they reach the age at which they can be exempt permanently.

The drafting of ultra-Orthodox men into the military has long been highly controversial, and even more so in recent months, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government planning a law to facilitate increased exemptions for Haredim from military service.

The two Haredi parties in the coalition, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Shas, have for weeks been threatening to topple the government if the military draft law is not passed as soon as possible, according to various reports.

According to Hebrew media reports, Netanyahu has pledged to the ultra-Orthodox parties that a legislative memorandum for the draft bill will be previewed in the Knesset’s upcoming winter session in October.

By lowering the permanent exemption age, some members of the government believe it would encourage those Haredi men to leave the yeshiva and enter the workforce at a younger age.

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