Hardline members of the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel have launched a propaganda-filled campaign against mandatory Haredi conscription, taking aim at young members of the ultra-Orthodox community who have enlisted voluntarily. The flyers and billboards call the Haredim who enlist Hardakim, which combines the word Haredi with the Hebrew word for bacteria and insects, haydakim, the Times of Israel reports. The posters, some have argued, invoke imagery not unlike the kind used by the Nazis during World War II, portraying IDF soldiers with hook noses chasing after innocent Haredi youths.
“They are intentionally trying to invoke Nazi symbolism,” says Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Weisenthal Center in Jerusalem. “That’s the way they attack Zionists and the rest of us, because they know that it hurts.”
The Haredim worry that if their children join the IDF, they will lose their connection to religion, and be tempted into “the whorehouses of Nahal and Shahar,” the New York Times reports. But many secular Israelis believe that Haredi enlistment is imperative considering their growing numbers in the state.
The integration of Haredim, or “those who fear God,” into the military — and providing them a path into the work force — is viewed as essential by many Israelis, not only to uphold the principle of social equality but also to ensure the economic survival of the country. More than a quarter of Jewish first graders in Israeli schools belong to the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox minority.
The controversy is affecting the families of the Haredim who enlist as well, according to the Jerusalem Post. Children of Haredi soldiers aren’t being accepted into their local kindergartens, and attempts have been made to kick them out of their yeshivas and synagogues. There have also been allegations of physical assault against the Haredi soldiers.
[Gadi] Agmon noted that in addition to the intense social pressure, the army has received 80 complaints of physical violence and verbal abuse, in which haredi soldiers have reported that tires of their vehicles have been slashed, graffiti has been sprayed at their homes, they have been spat on and had stones thrown at them.