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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chabad members strike deal to enlist in IDF (updated)

From Israel HaYom:
Leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch ultra-Orthodox movement have brokered an agreement with the Israel Defense Forces to draft male members for full military service. The agreement is to be signed soon, both sides report. The move marks the first time an entire Orthodox Hasidic movement will commit itself to sending its members to the Israeli military.

The deal is unique and significant as most Israeli ultra-Orthodox men do not perform military service, preferring instead to focus on their religious studies. The issue is a serious cause of tension between the religious and secular sectors of Israeli society.

The agreement between Chabad and the IDF, which comes after several months of negotiations, allows Chabad yeshiva students to leave the country for one year at the completion of their religious studies. After their year abroad, the students will be required to return to Israel for regular military service of three years.

The agreement stipulates that the men will be drafted and will have to serve a full three-year term even if they were married before beginning their service.

Chabad is concerned about fallout from other ultra-Orthodox groups because of the agreement, said a source with knowledge of the agreement. The IDF, on the other hand, is satisfied, considering the agreement a significant achievement after years of trying to integrate ultra-Orthodox communities into greater Israeli society, and is looking forward to the official support of some of Israel's most highly respected rabbis and Haredi community leaders. “This sets a precedent in the Haredi world,” the source said of the agreement. “For the first time, rabbis will support an agreement that will significantly increase the numbers in the IDF's ranks.”
This is very good news. It can help diffuse the anger that Israelis have towards the Haredim and it can help Chabad members integrate better into Israeli society.

I would be surprised if other chassidic groups follow very soon, though. Chabad is known for being able to live in secular of environments and encourages its members to live in the most remote places on the planet; other haredi groups are quite the opposite.

UPDATE: Chabad denies the deal. (h/t Miriam)