2009 saw approximately 2,000 haredi yeshiva students join the IDF or National Service. This is in sharp contrast to the 300 to 400 in 2008.
Most of these ultra-Orthodox men who chose to enlist in the IDF or do national service were older than 25. Most married with children.
The sharp rise may have been a result of the implementation of the Tal law. The Barak administration established the Tal Committee in 1999, with the aim of resolving problems stemming from draft exemptions for yeshiva students. The Tal law took effect in August 2002.
The law permits yeshiva students older than 22 to take one year off from their studies. During the year, they can acquire a profession or work without being drafted. At the end of the year, the students have a choice of either returning to full-time studies or completing abbreviated national service.
Between 2002 and 2005, only 1,400 yeshiva students, or 3% took a year off from their studies, and only 74 chose to fulfill national service.
The Finance Ministry blocked the creation of civilian national service for yeshiva students interested in remaining in the workforce. And the Defense Ministry, which demanded that men 23-year-olds complete a more lengthy service.
The National Service Administration reported that in 2009, 1,070 haredi men who had previously been enrolled full-time in yeshivot and kolelim opted to do national service. The men chose between a one year eight-hour-a-day track and a two-year four-hour-a-day track.
The normal National Service occupations for ultra-Orthodox participants are inside haredi neighborhoods or haredi charity organizations as paramedics, teachers, and social services workers.
As for the IDF, there’s the Shahar option. Shahar stands for haredi service (sheirut haredim) and targets married haredi men. They focus on training haredi men for non-combat roles like computer programmers, technicians and mechanics. There is also the Nahal Haredi, a battalion designated for ultra-Orthodox soldiers. Both the Nachal Haredi and Shahar provide participants with occupational training.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, a total of 5,500 21-year-old haredim asked for a deferral of their mandatory military service.
The total number of haredi men who request deferrals for the sake of devoting themselves to Torah education is about 55,000. Therefore, haredi men of various ages who choose to do national or military service make up just 3.5% of the total.