Haredi Soldiers Succeeding Post-Army

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- A new Israeli government study revealed that 70 percent of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) soldiers are finding good jobs after serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

Most ultra-Orthodox receive exemptions from mandatory army service and never enter the workforce.  In November 2007, the Israel Defense Forces started a program to help these men integrate into the IDF and afterward into the workforce. There are now some 1,300 haredi soldiers in army programs.

The fact that they don't contribute to defending the country, have large families and live largely off of government handouts, has put them at odds with much of Israeli society, which resents having to support them.

The study also showed that more than a third of haredi soldiers said military service improved their attitude toward secular Israelis, YNet reported.

That program is proving increasingly successful, especially as the IDF seeks to help these soldiers succeed in their military service.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home (Habayit Hayehudi) Party, is working to help ultra-Orthodox Jews succeed in the workplace.

"Integrating haredim into Israeli society is no long a fantasy," Bennet said. "Their integration into society is a national target."

An even bigger challenge for many of these soldiers is rejection by their own communities when they go home on weekend leave. It's not a new phenomenon.

One soldier told YNet "In the last few weeks since the legislative process regarding haredi enlistment has been put on the fast track, the (haredi) street is ablaze and we have become its victims."

"They call us names, say we are impure and threaten our children," he said, adding that some of the soldiers change in and out of their uniforms in the restrooms at Jerusalem's central bus station, though it's against IDF policy.

They also have to pay their own bus or train fare if they're not in uniform.

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