"…The [haredi] street is on fire and we have become its victims. They call us names, say we are impure and threaten our children. Some of us are forced to hide and – in violation of army directives – change into our army uniforms in the bathroom of Jerusalem's central bus station…"
Haredi Soldiers Ask For Uniform Exemption After Receiving Threats, Harassment
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Ynet reports that the IDF is rejecting requests from haredi soldiers to allow them to wear civilian clothes when they return to their homes and haredi neighborhoods on leave or to visit.
Soldiers in the IDF’s Shahar haredi integration program report that they are heckled, cursed and even threatened by haredim when they are wearing their uniforms.
As a result, the IDF has received more than 60 requests for an exemption. Fewer than 20 were reportedly granted.
The case of a haredi soldier who lives in the Bayit VeGan neighborhood of Jerusalem is typical.
"Principals of Talmudic schools do not accept boys whose fathers serve in the army, and almost every time he returns home, haredi youths spit, curse and threaten him…Our families support us, but they didn’t know my husband serves in the army. If they did, we would lose their financial support," the soldier’s wife told Ynet.
Even so, the soldier was not granted a uniform exemption.
Another haredi soldier denied an exemption spoke of the harassment he and many of his fellow haredi soldiers suffer.
“Despite the fact that we are haredim, we're proud to serve our country, and serving in the IDF benefits us as well, both presently and in the future, both in economic and in social terms, as well as aiding our personal development. [But] in the last few weeks, since the legislating process regarding haredi enlistment has been put on the fast track, the [haredi] street is on fire and we have become its victims.
"They call us names, say we are impure and threaten our children. Some of us are forced to hide and – in violation of army directives – change into our army uniforms in the bathroom of Jerusalem's central bus station, and then take the bus home at our own expense.” (Soldiers can travel on public transportation for free only if they are in uniform.)
The few haredi soldiers who did get exemptions are those who are tasked by the IDF to go deep into haredi neighborhoods to try to convince draft-age haredi males to serve in the military.
The IDF says it is trying to make it easier for the 1,300 haredim currently serving in the IDF, and have met with yeshiva deans and taken other steps to try to do this. At the same time, the IDF requires that all soldiers – haredi or not – remain in uniform, and every haredi now serving in the IDF knew this before they signed up.
"Soldiers serving through the Shahar [haredi] service track are aware that service in the IDF entails wearing a uniform like every other IDF soldier.[But] in light of the sensitivity of the issue and taking into account unique circumstances in which commuting in uniform is truly impossible, the [IDF] deals with each request [for a uniform exemption] individually,” an IDF spokesperson reportedly said.