Israeli analysts speak of a "hardline intifada" within the army, which is about to change its composition forever. (Reuters)

"Haredi uprising in the army", is how Israeli analyst Yagel Levy titled his article in the newspaper "Haaretz", warning of "a religious-nationalist wave sweeping the infantry in Gaza", against the background of the spread of religious texts and prayers that include calls for revenge and killing, and promises to revive the settlements of "Gush Katif", which were established inside Gaza before the Israeli withdrawal from the Strip in 2005, all under the auspices of some prominent rabbis in the occupation state (1).

Levy believes that this phenomenon, which is blessed by what he described as "senior officers", reflects "general political extremism," especially after the "Al-Aqsa Flood" operation, and reflects a path that "led to the entry of the religious values of the army, and the emergence of officers and soldiers from the Haredali movement," in the midst of a two-decade-old struggle for ideological control of the army. This is the message that Levy has put in the eyes of Israeli society and its elite: who are the Haredim? What is the story behind their entry into the Israeli occupation army? And why do they want to control it?

Israeli Army Hardla

The Haredi Jewish community is known for avoiding entering the army and refusing or at least postponing military service. (Reuters)

After the October 2000 attack by Hamas, some observers noted an unusual movement in the ranks of the occupation army, with more than 2,2020 ultra-Orthodox nationalists volunteering to serve, which observers considered "rare" given that the Haredi Jewish community is known to avoid entering the army and refuse or at least postpone military service (1200). In 2015, only 3,<> young men served in the military, half of the number of ultra-Orthodox soldiers who served in the army in <>, according to a study by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) published by The Times of Israel earlier this year (<>).

This phenomenon is a kind of challenge to the instructions of ultra-Orthodox rabbis, which prevent Haredi youth from joining the army and abandoning the Talmudic schools to which they must give their whole lives. As leaders of the extremist Shas and United Torah Judaism parties seek to legislate a law in the Knesset that would permanently exempt Haredi from military service in order to devote them to studying the Talmud, these young men abandon their schools and replace their uniforms with black uniforms. This phenomenon is not limited to ultra-Orthodox youth alone, but also includes young women, as an article published by the Times of Israel website in 2016 indicated that religious women joined the Israeli army, and their number increased between 2010-2015 from 935 to 2159, and the largest percentage of them come from the outskirts of Tel Aviv and from the settlement of "Modi'in Illit", the largest in the West Bank, located on the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (4).

Another article published in the International Religious Observatory in March 2022 indicates that this phenomenon is due to the fact that religious nationalist women volunteering in the army were subjected to resentment in their surroundings and socially isolated because of their preference for the army over Talmudic study, but this view changed little by little, and their social environment began to accept them in military uniforms despite the continued opposition of religious institutions to the recruitment of women (4). What is the reason for this change in the attitude of ultra-Orthodox youth towards military service? And how do we understand the nature of the Haredim and their composition?

Haredim. Spirituality vs. modernity

Jews who rejected or opposed the Hasidim because of their excessive interest in spirituality and mysticism instead of studying the Talmud and its teachings, formed another sect within the Haredim called the "Lithuanians," and became the main Haredi movement over time. (Anatolia)

Jews in Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages were a group living on the margins of society, doing work that no other social class wanted to perform in order to avoid hatred and stigmatization, such as usury (lending money with interest) and collecting taxes. The reaction of a group of religious Jews was to unite and solidarity to maintain their way of life away from modern life, and the Haredi sect, meaning "God-fearing", emerged as they studied the Torah and implemented its teachings and duties with precision and rigor. As cultural shifts increased in Europe, and Jews seeped from retreat to assimilation into society and some converted to Christianity, the Haredi community expanded, and its activism increased.

When the Zionist movement emerged at the end of the nineteenth century, the Haredim viewed it with suspicion, especially since it emerged from outside the religious Jewish community, and even from outside the entire Jewish community, and even the most pro-Zionism were Jews haters and advocates for their expulsion from Europe. According to the attitude towards Zionism and the modern world, several denominations were established within the Haredi community, including the Hasidim movement, which began at the beginning of the nineteenth century as a spiritual mysticism movement that attracted thousands of followers among the major Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, namely Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Romania. The Hasidim is more militant than other Haredi groups, and many Hasidic communities independently run their educational and charitable institutions, most notably the Hasidic Ghor community, which is known for its strict internal system and emphasis on the behavior and interference of its members in their lives. Members of the larger Hasidic communities often marry from within the community itself (5).

In contrast, Jews who rejected or opposed the Hasidim because of their excessive interest in spirituality and mysticism rather than studying the Talmud and its teachings formed another sect within the Haredim called the Lithuanians, and became the main Haredi movement over time. Lithuanians also have Eastern European origins, and their vision crystallized in the great religious schools of the Lithuanian state, hence the so-called Lithuanians.

The Lithuanians succeeded in attracting many Sephardic Jews whose roots go back to the Jews of Spain before their expulsion in the fifteenth century and their migration to the Arab region. On the other hand, another Sephardic group who lived in Jerusalem before the establishment of the occupation state felt discriminated against within the ultra-Orthodox world, as a result of the lack of budgets and seats for their children in religious schools dominated by Jews of European origin. This sentiment stimulated the establishment of an independent Eastern Haredi educational framework for the Shas movement, which later founded the far-right Shas party (6).

From rejecting Zionism to fighting in its army

The social movement of some Hasidic and Haredi groups produced a new group called the Haredil, an abbreviation for "National Religious Haredi". (French)

Despite the different denominations and their branches within the Haredi Jewish community, most of them have agreed since the emergence of the Zionist movement and the establishment of the State of Israel on their strong opposition to Zionism, as the followers of the Haredi community saw the Zionist project as the source of evil in the lives of Jews in recent generations, and that the establishment of a state for the Jews is a kind of infidelity and heresy that precipitates the end of the world as stipulated in the Talmudic doctrine. Some of the more ultra-Orthodox groups refuse to take education budgets from the state, and some refuse to receive national insurance benefits. Haredim generally do not participate in elections, some seek to withhold from paying taxes, and do not serve in the military.

The roots of the anti-conscription stance of the Haredim go back to their days in Europe, where the Haredi community refrained from being drafted into the armies of the European countries in which they lived, and after the establishment of the State of Israel they adopted the same position, something that David Ben-Gurion, the founder of the State of Israel, agreed to, and issued a decision to exempt 400 Haredim from military service in 1950 and devote them to religious study, in order to satisfy the religious Jews whom he wanted to attract to his ruling coalition.

However, the relationship between the Haredim and Zionism remained predominantly antagonistic, until a surprising development in the seventies was the signing of the "Founding of Israel" by Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Levin, becoming the first Haredi representative to officially recognize Israel and hold a ministerial position in the Likud government. After that, the situation of the Haredim in Israeli society changed completely, as Prime Minister Menachem Begin began courting the Haredi community with a religious discourse, including Haredi figures in his government, raising the budgets allocated to the community, and removing the barrier of 400 students exempted from military service (6).

The second fundamental change occurred in 1982 when the Shas party, which won the votes of Mizrahi Jews from outside the ultra-Orthodox community, was founded and became an important player in the Israeli political scene. With these changes, a new phenomenon emerged among the Haredim: the "modern Haredim", a Haredi who seek to live in a modern way while retaining their religious character, but unlike the traditional Haredi participate in political life and military service, and live in settlements outside the old cities and Haredi neighborhoods. This social movement has produced among some Hasidic and Haredi groups a new group called the Haredil, short for "National Orthodox Haredi," which are Haredi groups that have turned their religious puritanism into nationalist extremism and seek to join and control the army.

Occupation of the Israeli army from within

In order to facilitate the entry of ultra-Orthodox youth into the army, the IDF has established several programs to adapt religious life to military service. (French)

On the other hand, the rapid demographic increase of the Haredim seems to have changed the perception of parts of the Zionist state on the issue, as they now constitute about 13.3% of the population and are characterized by high fertility rates with an average of 6 children per woman, so the Israeli right sought to encourage the Haredim to engage in public life and join the ranks of the army, in order to benefit from them as a rising political force.

In order to facilitate the entry of ultra-Orthodox youth into the army, the Israeli military has established several programs to adapt religious life to the performance of military service, such as the formation in 1999 of the military battalion Netzah Yehuda (Nahal Haredi), which includes Haredi Jews without women, relies on kosher (halal food), and operates in the occupied West Bank, and about 500 of them volunteer annually. The Shahar program, adopted in 2007, is intended for married ultra-Orthodox Jews, who work in technological and logistical units, numbering about 2000,7 and receiving higher salaries than others (8), (<>).

However, the dangers of this "Haredi infiltration" into the occupation army soon emerged in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, as the Haredali movement saw what the army had done as a "religious sin" with which it participated in the exile of a "Jewish people." Therefore, in the following years, the Haradli movement decided to "occupy the army from within" by flowing into elite military divisions, progressing to high military ranks, and controlling some of the positions of the army's Rabbinate military institution (9). The so-called "religious Zionist current" has become increasingly active in the IDF, which plays a key role in pushing soldiers to brutality and extermination.

During the 2008-2009 war on Gaza, letters circulated within the Israeli army saying that Palestinians were "a people to be destroyed," and the "Breaking the Silence" association at the time found dozens of leaflets distributed to soldiers during the war, most of which bore the official logo of the military rabbinate, and the former chief rabbi of the Israeli army, Brigadier General Avichai Ronzky, called in 2009 not to arrest Palestinians suspected of anti-Israel activities but to "shoot them in their beds" (10).

Years later, on July 9, 2014, the second day of the IDF's war on the Gaza Strip that year, a letter was distributed to soldiers of the Givati Brigade, the IDF's most famous infantry brigade, signed by Colonel Ofer Winter, the brigade's commander, stating, "We have chosen history to lead the war against the terrorist Gaza enemy who curses, vilifies and hates the Lord of Israel," concluding with a biblical text that "preaches divine protection to Israel's warriors on the battlefield." The letter was quickly circulated on social media, from where it was transmitted to the press, and was criticized by secular Israelis who saw it as "breaking the decades-old custom of keeping religion away from military missions" (11).

Hate Brigades

Although the army leadership is reluctant to publish information about the number of religious Zionists within the army, it is estimated that about half of the non-commissioned officers in the infantry today belong to this current. (French)

Year after year, the Haredim penetrate into the occupation army, occupying senior positions in its ranks, while some battalions, especially the Nitzah Yehuda battalion, have become ultra-Orthodox outposts within the Israeli army trying to control it. The battalion was founded by an American extremist rabbi who immigrated to Israel in 1996 to protect ultra-Orthodox young men who could end up loitering on the streets of Jerusalem after failing to attend biblical schools. However, the matter did not stop with the ultra-Orthodox youth who dropped out of the closed religious study, of whom only 42% were recruited into the battalion, according to Haaretz, but also recruited young extremists, and then the battalion turned in a short period of time into a military unit with a religious-political dimension, and a destination for extremist settlers as their "kingdom" within the Israeli army institution, enabling them to exercise their aggression.

The result of this transformation was clearly manifested years later. In June 2021, clashes erupted between settlers and Palestinians on Route 60, east of Mount Tawil, against the backdrop of the establishment of the Oz Zion outpost, and when Border Police forces rushed to disperse the clashes, the Netzah Yehuda Brigade intervened to support the settlers in the face of the Border Police, as most of its recruits are residents of settlements in the West Bank, and therefore considered that they were defending their homes. The soldiers of this battalion do not obey the orders of the army, and even have no problem in disobeying it if not punishing or killing their commanders if they obey the "worldly" leaders of the army in contravention of Talmudic instructions (12).

Over time, this current became empowered and widespread in the IDF, leading Israeli analysts to talk about a "hardline intifada" within the army, which is about to change its composition forever. According to an article published on May 26, 2010, changing the composition of the IDF seems to be a looming crisis, noting that the IDF no longer attracts secular middle-class youth, but poor people from more religious backgrounds, and has therefore changed its composition over the past <> years.

Whereas twenty years ago, most army officers hailed from Greater Tel Aviv and the Sarona Plain on the coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa, the proportion of officers from these two regions is negligible, and those who remained in service served in Military Intelligence (Aman), the Air Force, and military units working in the electronic field in particular. While 2 percent of military academy students in 1990 were religious, they accounted for 30 percent of students in 2010, and six out of seven lieutenant colonels in the Golani Brigade became religious, and three out of seven lieutenant colonels in the Kfir Brigade, which is based in the occupied West Bank. Two of the six colonels in the Golani Brigade and the Parachute Corps belong to the religious Zionist current, while in some infantry brigades, about 50% of the local commanders belong to this current (12).

Although the army leadership is reluctant to publish information about the number of religious Zionists within the army, it is estimated that about half of the non-commissioned officers in the infantry today belong to this current, a number that continues to grow, which led analyst "Yagil Levy" to say in his article that the ultra-Orthodox movement is trying to prove its presence within the Israeli army by spreading a culture of rebellion against military orders and values in which the remnants of rational management, commitment to political decisions and respect for the law remain. Pride in brutality, indiscipline, and lack of hesitation in violence and demands for revenge gives a disturbing message: the "wedding of hate" in the army and the Chief of Staff will become a general situation within the state, meaning that violence, indiscipline and brutality will spill over into Israel, threatening the collapse of the Israeli state itself.



  • Haredi uprising in the army
  • Israël-Gaza: plus de 2 000 ultraorthodoxes postulent pour rejoindre l'armée.
  • The growing weight of religious people within the Israeli army and its reflection on the conflict.
  • Quand des considérations religieuses croisent l'enrôlement des femmes: l'exemple des forces de défense israéliennes (FDI) – Version française.
  • Haredi Jews.
  • Haredi Jews: Their Background - Currents - and Religious and Worldly Attitudes
  • Randa Haidar: The Problem of Amending the Compulsory Service Law in the IDF: Social, Economic and Political Dimensions, August 15, 2012.
  • Nitzah Judea Battalion: The Haredi Kingdom in the Army.
  • The Haredali movement is on its way to becoming a permanent and rising current in the IDF.
  • Le poids des religieux s'accroît au sein de Tsahal.
  • L'armée israélienne est colonisée par les religieux.
  • Nitzah Judea Battalion: The Haredi Kingdom in the Army.
  •  ISRAËL. Tsahal aux mains des religieux.
  • Source : Al Jazeera