Officials said the military has been urging for programs that would
encourage the ultra-Orthodox, the largest growing Jewish sector in Israel,
to participate in the draft. They said the ultra-Orthodox would be
increasingly needed to compensate for a steady decline in combat troops, Middle East Newsline reported.
For decades, the ultra-Orthodox community refused to join the military.
Members of the community cited the need to learn Torah, lax enforcement
of Jewish laws, sexual integration and opposition to Israeli sovereignty.
"We will not allow a growing proportion of the ultra-Orthodox public to
be exempt from service ostensibly due to full-time religious studies,"
Netanyahu said. "The state of Israel cannot endure this."
Officials said the government has allocated nearly $35 million to
accommodate ultra-Orthodox recruits in the military. They said
ultra-Orthodox men as well as women would be encouraged to serve in the
military's intelligence and technology units.
"This is a revolution, a significant revolution," Netanyahu said. "It
will have repercussions regarding the division of the security and economic
burden in the country."
On Jan. 10, Israel state radio reported that the military intelligence
corps has decided to recruit 10 married ultra-Orthodox women. The report
said the women would be trained in software development and allowed to bring
their infants to the base.
The military has also agreed to provide ultra-Orthodox recruits with a
special kosher diet, Jewish lectures and exemption from working on the
Sabbath. So far, the military contains an estimated 5,500 ultra-Orthodox
"This is the right step in the right direction," Israeli Defense
Minister Ehud Barak said. "The true test will be in the implementation, and
it is essential that every effort be made to implement it."