It looks like, despite that dreadful farce of a demonstration a few months ago, there are Haredis now joining the army
Moshe Prigan starts his day off just like many other men in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak with his morning prayer. It's only later that the routine takes an unexpected twist, when he puts on his air force uniform and heads to the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
The 30-year-old captain doesn't just serve in the military. He also recruits other ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to enlist, something the cloistered community traditionally has avoided doing.
But with Israel recently passing a contentious law to gradually increase ultra-Orthodox enlistment, soldiers like Prigan could symbolize a historic shift among those known in Hebrew as "haredim," or those who fear God.
"The haredi community is a thinking community. They realize that what was cannot continue being," Prigan said. "The Arab Spring is also happening in the Haredi community. There is a Haredi Spring taking place as the Internet and the smartphones develop. You can't avoid it."
That's heartening to hear. There are some in that community who're waking up and smelling the coffee, and it's good.
Leaders of the community say their ancient brand of Judaism is under siege and their followers would rather sit in jail than join the military. Tens of thousands have staged large demonstrations against the new law and warn of an uprising if it is carried out.
But quietly, ultra-Orthodox soldiers have been growing in numbers. According to the military, some 1,860 joined last year, up from 288 in 2007.
It's a far cry from the high participation rates among secular and modern Orthodox youth, but nonetheless reflects a new openness in the community.
They could also be of help by easing up some of the more insular customs they've taken up over the years, like not interacting between sexes. And they might also ponder that their brand of Judaism isn't that old. It only dates back to the 18th century.
Labels: haredi corruption, Israel, military