Religious combat unit recruits abroad

Monday, March 12, 2007 |  by Staff Writer
The Nahal Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) combat unit plans to launch a campaign in the United States and Europe with hopes of attracting new recruits.

Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow, director of the Nahal Haredi organization, said Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern backs the recruiting efforts.

Nahal Haredi was established eight years ago as a single company, but today it is a full battalion that is based in the Jordan Valley.

Most of the battalion's 650 soldiers are recruited in Israel and come from ultra-Orthodox or national religious homes. Instead of going to Yeshiva, the Nahal brigade helps them complete high school matriculation exams and prepares them for either university studies or return to Yeshiva.

The Nahal Haredi organization also facilitates the enlisting of religious soldiers from abroad through its Mahal program. The battalion has close to 100 Mahal soldiers, including 40 from France.

Recruits from the US face different challenges than Israelis serving in the unit.

“In America they don't have the same issues like Israelis,” said Klebanow, “but there are some that fall between the cracks and they don't want to go to university and they don't want to go to yeshiva. Nahal Haredi offers them an opportunity to serve in the IDF with a kosher stamp on their service.”

Religion is the key element to serving in the battalion. Female soldiers do not serve on the base. Rabbi Klebanow said most end up making Aliyah after their service and those who don’t have a greater attachment to Israel.

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