15 years ago, the exclusively Haredi platoon, Netzach Yehuda, was established. Beginning with 31 soldiers, today the platoon boasts over 500, and is headed by Lt. Col. Telem Chazan, a Religious Zionist.
According to Chazan it is “for sure that the army wants the Haredim. My feeling is that the IDF is very proud of this platoon and its soldiers and I get the impression that even my seniors, including the Defence Minister and the Chief of Staff, are doing all they can to ensure the platoon’s success and the integration of Haredim. My point of view is that every person can contribute to the Jewish People, and when that happens everyone wins. In the IDF today, one can combine active duty and a life of Torah, and I say this as one who does both. Anyone who can join an IDF combat unit will be welcomed and I personally will ensure that everything is done for him.”
Every soldier in Netzach Yehuda receives an all-encompassing atmosphere which includes davenning (prayers), Torah shiurim and accompanying Rabbis.
Some claim, however, that those in “Nachal Haredi” are not actually Haredi but Religious Zionists. Chazan responds that “even Moshe Rabeinu and King David received complaints! I’m not going to enter into this argument, but those who wish to, should come and see what is happening in the platoon for themselves. There is no basis to this claim whatsoever. Most of the soldiers come from Haredi homes. I don’t care about labels – nor do I check what every person wears or what kippa he puts on his head. When you go into a refugee camp in Jenin, believe me no-one cares.”
Even though there are several tensions between the Religious Zionist and Haredi elements of Israeli society, Chazan says that these are not an issue in the platoon. “I would be happy for the politicians to come here and see how we learn to unite without these tensions! In Netzach Yehuda we have Haredim, Religious Zionists and, in the headquarters, also secular. The perception is that it doesn’t matter whether you wear a black or knitted kippa (or none! –ed) – but what’s important is that you are going shoulder to shoulder with your fellow. We prove to the Jewish People that there can be unity!”