The ultra-Orthodox are finding it difficult to persuade religious youth to serve in the Israel Defense Forces’ Nahal Haredi (religious) infantry battalion unit. “Haredi Jews, in effect, are not obliged to be conscripted. An ultra-Orthodox Jew who enlists is really volunteering, like an American youth,” Meir Ben-Haim, an army recruiter, said. “Our idea is to reach as many youngsters as possible and persuade them to join the Nahal Haredi.” Nahal Haredi soldiers speak at both religious and non-religious schools encouraging others to enlist, but they are not asked to speak at yeshivas where the most potential Orthodox recruits would be. In the past two weeks, Ben-Haim has been able to get five Orthodox recruits for the Haredi unit from a booth he set up in downtown Jerusalem. “We want our public to understand that they must contribute toward closing the gap in all of Israeli society,” he said. “There is no better time than at army age to do that.”
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