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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hesder, the "Arrangement" is "cracking"

For decades, the "national religious" crowd has been very proud and protective of the Yeshivot Hesder. They are five year programs for religious high school graduates in which they learn in yeshiva and, periodically, also serve in the IDF in special units.

Of the five years of the program, less than three are in the army. Three years is the standard army service for Israeli men. But since the hesder units, at least until Disengagement, were considered the best motivated and disciplined, the army was willing to have them as part of the elite paratroopers and others. The hesder units are made up only of hesder students, meaning they're religious.

Most religious Israelis serve in regular units, fully integrated with soldiers of all "life-styles" and backgrounds. Competing for the religious guys who want to learn Torah before the army are the "Mechinot," religious preparatory yeshivot. Their students study from a few months to a year and a half or more, and then they serve in regular units for the full three years. A few years ago they were getting lots more kids than the hesder.

Recently, there has been talk from the IDF, that they want to change the "hesder," arrangement with the yeshivot. One of those who support the change is Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. This is bad news for the yeshivot hesder. It goes together with the debates heard in the "national religious" crowd about how we should relate to the State of Israel.

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