Defenders of the Negev: Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the IDF (Zahal)

Soldiers in a new IDF (Zahal) company called “Defenders of the Negev” maintain an observant Jewish lifestyle as they work to protect the State of Israel. Their service reflects an important goal of the IDF (Zahal): to help Ultra-Orthodox Jews integrate into the army.

The combat soldiers, all Ultra-Orthodox Jews, undergo six months of special training that focuses on infantry patrol, pinpoint operations and even basic lessons in Arabic that enable them to communicate with the population that lives in the area. Throughout this process, these soldiers are able to preserve their religious lifestyle. During their basic training and course, they study religion and Jewish tradition with rabbis, just as they would in a traditional Yeshiva. The soldiers regularly pray, study Torah and even have a special kitchen that prepares kosher food to an extra-high standard.

“They have everything they were accustomed to here,” explains Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz, Chief Military Rabbi to the IDF (Zahal). “Everything has remained the same, except for maybe spending the night in a sleeping bag.”