IDF plans haredi unit by August

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Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said the inductees will serve in outposts along the border, adding that the army had made every effort to enable the haredi soldiers to study Torah, to have glatt kosher food and to avoid contact with female soldiers — an issue that is especially sensitive for them.

Last week's induction took place the same day as the first meeting of a special committee formed by Prime Minister Ehud Barak to consider the possibility of drafting yeshiva students.

The Defense Ministry said the committee dealt only with its procedures and schedules. It reportedly was decided that in its next meeting it will hear varying views and expert opinions concerning its authority and actions.

According to Sneh, the induction of the first two groups into the haredi program proved that it would be possible to draft haredi yeshiva students.

However, Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, of Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim in Jerusalem, said that army service is not suitable for haredi young men who are studying in yeshivot, though it could be a boon to those who were without a framework.

Schwartz said considerable opposition remains to such army service in the haredi community.

Only about half of those who had originally signed up for the program have been inducted, Schwartz said. In most cases, he said, the army rejected the youngsters as unsuitable, while in other cases, the families had pressured their sons to drop out.