Yeshiva learning and military training: an encounter between two cultural models

Yohai Hakak

Research output: Working paper

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Abstract

This study, the first of its kind, examines the encounter between young Haredi men with the military service, within the framework of a general IDF basic training, which aims to mold citizens into soldiers. This entails disciplining and regulating their behavior, imparting knowledge, skills and values. All these are intended to restructure their identity to suit the requirements of the military system. The study examines the reactions of recruits to the military discourse and practice, the way in which they internalize them and when and whether they are able to reject them, undermine them or reshape them. The findings illustrate that the process of restructuring the new identity is particularly complex in this case, because it is associated with cultural convictions that are, in part, diametrically opposed to those with which the recruits join the army. This tension affects the character of the basic training for this sector, undertaken annually by several hundred Haredi men. A general overview of the Haredi recruits’ attitudes towards the skills, practices and varied information sources to which they are exposed in the course of the basic training, uncover a profound duality. Findings indicate that the recruits adopt some aspects of the military experience so long as those do not clash with their own cultural substance, in which case they are rejected outright. A similar duality underlines their attitudes toward their actual recruitment to the soldiers-teachers program. The large majority has stated that they the incentives to recruitment were neither value oriented nor stem from a desire to serve. They were driven by the need to settle financial difficulties, create a smooth transition from the world of learning to the labor market and resolve the national dispute over their military service. The distinction between technical, instrumental components, which could serve Haredi society, and values and cultural components, which are likely to conflict with its own, characterizes the attitudes of Haredi society towards other segments of Israeli society, much like those of other segregationist groups toward a modern environment within which they live. The basic training and military service allow Haredi youngsters to penetrate the very core of Israeli society, equipped with up-to-date information and valid criticism. Yet it is important to remember that the Haredi men at the focus of this study are groping their way from the world of Yeshivas and seminaries to the reality of a labor market. The military service widens their employment opportunities and allows them to enter public service, hitherto barred to them, as equal citizens. Employment, whether in the public or the private sectors, will create a change, which will eradicate their pattern of rejecting or disregarding the legitimacy of the State of Israel alongside the many other benefits entailed in the process. It is evident that such a process is well likely to change the spatial reality of Israel as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationJerusalem
PublisherFloersheimer Institute
Number of pages94
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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