HOLON, Israel - IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi addressed parents of youth nearing recruitment into the Israel Defense Forces.
In a meeting designed to help parents prepare for their youngster's compulsory army service, the outgoing military chief covered a broad range of policies. After the address, parents had an opportunity to talk with soldiers from different units.
Regarding the ultra-Orthodox Haredi youth, Ashkenazi said they should be required to serve in the IDF like everyone else.
The majority of Haredim receive military exemptions to devote themselves to studying the Torah (law) in religious seminaries or yeshivot.
"Those who do not serve must be made to feel ashamed," Ashkenazi told participants. "Haredim can also join and they must be made to do so," he said.
Ashkenazi also said he's saddened by the relatively low percentage of women opting for active duty, noting that the military provides more than 950 different job opportunities for female soldiers. He said many claim their observant lifestyles are not compatible with military service.
"There must be equality on this issue, as [there is] for men, and I hope the State will do something about it," he said.
Generally, youth enter the IDF shortly after graduating from high school. Men serve three years of compulsory service, followed by an annual stint in the reserves until age 40. Women serve two years and are not required to participate in reserve duty.
In June 2010, the first religious woman completed the elite combat pilot's course, joining other female officers, including pilots, in the nation's air force.
Ynet news contributed to this report.