A stunning and memorable visit during our Farash Foundation / JDC Strategic Partnership Mission was a site visit to an Israel Air Force Base to see the Blue Dawn program.
Blue Dawn integrates Ultra-Orthodox (“Haredi”) men into the army, respectfully, and mindful of both their needs and the army’s needs. It prepares these young men for military service, and equips them with a useful profession for civilian life afterwards. By doing this, Blue Dawn lifts entire sectors out of poverty, and turns them from welfare recipients to taxpayers.
It’s a growing issue in Israeli society.
In 1948 Prime Minister Ben-Gurion gave “Torah study” exemptions to a few hundred scholars, since Torah study had been decimated after the Shoah (Holocaust). But by 1992, some 5% of Jewish men claimed an exemption. By 2012 it was 12.4% The concept of "equalizing the burden" was one of the key issues in the elections this January.
Captain Liran, the head of the program, explained that most of the Haredi enlisted soldiers are married (65%) with children (50%). That actually makes them a good investment from the army’s perspective, since they tend to be more mature than your average 18-year old recruit. The average age of a Blue Dawn Haredi soldier is 24.
45% have no previous technological background. But we teach them to be technicians, electricians, mechanics. Important military roles that are directly transferable to the civilian sector and are in great demand.
Here’s what’s amazing, The Government aims for 63% employment placement in general for the Haredi men … after graduating Blue Dawn, 92% of the released Haredi soldiers find good civilian jobs!
Blue Dawn is paving the way for Haredi integration into the army and Israeli society. And it will change
Israel, the army, and Haredi
society all for the better.