If you live in Israel, you probably know the answer to the question, ‘who won’t serve in the IDF (Israel Defense Force)?’ The answer we’ve all been told is, ‘the Charedi’ (ultra-orthodox).
In Israel, the secular elite have duped us. They sell a bogus product: Charedi won’t serve in the army. They’re draft-dodgers. Only the secular carry the responsibility for protecting Israel.
That’s the conventional wisdom: the secular protect us (Nathan Hersh, “Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the IDF would be a disaster for Israel”, Haaretz, March 12, 2012).
But is that really true? Could the secular be draft-dodgers, too?
Nobody’s saying. To find some kind of insight into this question, you’ve got to dig very long and hard. That such difficulty exists suggests immediately that something’s fishy. Is it?
The most complete enlistment information I could find about overall IDF enlistment numbers comes from 2010-2015. From these scattered reports, we learn several things.
First, only 50% of eligible Israeli youth serve in the IDF (Yaakov Katz, “60 percent of Israelis won't serve in IDF by 2020”, Jerusalem Post, Nov 18, 2011).
Second, Charedi represent 13 per cent of ‘draft-dodgers’ (ibid).
That’s an interesting number. It’s of interest because we’re never told draft-dodger numbers for any other group (secular, Zionist, or ‘settler’). That suggests a question: if 13 per cent of ‘dodgers’ are Charedi, what per cent of ‘dodgers’ are secular? There’s no comment.
There should be some comment about that because that same 2011 report revealed that only 42.5 per cent of male youth in Tel Aviv (Israel’s most secular city) do IDF service. That suggests that 57.5 per cent do not.
How many of those 57.5 per cent are seculars? No comment.
Are those 57.5 per cent counted as ‘draft-dodgers’? No comment.
Does the IDF know what per cent of seculars dodge the draft? No comment.
Does the IDF track only Charedi ‘dodgers’? No comment.
Of course, if the IDF reports the per cent of Charedi who dodge the draft, shouldn’t it report the per cent of seculars who dodge the draft? No comment.
If the IDF doesn’t report the per cent of secular draft dodgers, should we conclude that it knows the per cent of seculars who dodge the draft and, because it doesn’t like that number, chooses to hide it? No comment.
In 2012, Haaretz wrote that it’s the seculars who carry the responsibility for protecting Israel (above). But if it’s combat duty that says, ‘I’m protecting Israel’, the 2011 story (above)—written the year before—suggested that that wasn’t true: only 36 per cent of soldiers from the Gush Dan (the secular Tel Aviv) region volunteer for combat duty versus 61 per cent of soldiers from the more Zionistic Judea-Samaria (Katz, ibid).
In fact, the more secular Tel Aviv region had the lowest per cent of soldiers in Israel (36%) who volunteered for combat duty (Yoav Zitun, “IDF: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem last in enlistment”, YNET, November 17, 2015). How do seculars protect us when they won’t show up for combat?
In 2013, one essayist suggested that the reason for the seculars’ lack of interest to do combat duty is that there was a “a strong current of pacifism and left-wing activism among Israeli youth” (Samira Shakle, “IDF faces a recruitment crisis despite conscription”, Middle East Monitor, December 6, 2013). But that mind-set is not characteristic of Zionist and ‘settler’ youth; it’s far more applicable to secular youth who so clearly prefer Western culture (ibid).
In 2010, another report suggested that the Tel Aviv draft-dodger speculation you’ve just seen above isn’t fiction (Ariella Ringel-Hoffman, “Tel Aviv shirking its duties”, YNET, November 24, 2010). The Tel Aviv enlistment rate was so low, it was lower than the Bedouin town Rahat.
This issue of secular-Charedi enlistment comes up because of a new story about Charedi enlistment (Tova Dvorin, “Yeshiva Student Combat Draft Rates 6 Times Higher Since 2007”, Arutz Sheva, May 29, 2015). It seems that, while secular enlistments stumble, Charedi enlistments climb—up by a factor of 6 since 2008. Yes, the total number for Charedi enlistment is still small. But at least the number is climbing.
It seems the same can’t be said for the secular. Enlistment rates for Charedi and secular go in opposite directions.
Here’s a piece of advice: don’t believe the secular argument that Charedi aren’t enlisting.
Look instead at the enlistment curves for secular and Charedi. That’ll tell the real story. The seculars are, in increasing numbers, divorcing themselves from the State of Israel. But the Charedi are, in increasing numbers, committing to Israel.
When it comes to enlistment numbers for the IDF, the seculars are getting a free pass. They don’t deserve it.
When it comes to enlistment numbers for the IDF, the Charedi are being demonized. They don’t deserve that.