I'm going to start by suggesting you read Our Shiputzim's fact-filled post about religious life (aka Orthodox Judaism) in the IDF-Israeli Defense Forces.
As I have mentioned several times, YZG and I are the very proud parents of a hesder yeshiva student/soldier, and thus, you won’t be surprised to hear that I firmly believe that hesder is the ideal answer to this issue...Our Shiputzim continues the post with a list of true stories from the IDF of today. I stress that it's today's IDF and not even the time that my sons served. Real change comes slowly, and even if the Knesset passes a law to draft everyone, it will take quite a while for this to be useful and efficient and the best for Israeli security and social needs.
MYTH: The IDF has it in for religious soldiers.
FACT: Not only does the army go out of its way to make sure that religious soldiers are given sufficient time to daven three times a day and to bench after every meal, but consider the following true stories:
Even thirty years ago, when I was the English Public Relations for Yeshivat Hesder Shiloh, our soldiers were being assigned to the Tzanchanim, Paratroopers. The IDF's bottom line has always been practical, and practical means talking advantage of the most dedicated and motivated soldiers to give them the most challenging and difficult army positions.
Yes, there has always been a concept of חייב לעבור chayav la'avor, "must pass," aka protexia, that sons or grandsons of certain people have an easier time getting into some units, but push comes to shove and those same units are sociologically very different today than they had been ten, twenty and certainly more than a generation ago.
The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Israel's Leftist secular "elite" now request desk jobs, not to be in the risky paratroopers or Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Sayeret Matkal.
The General Staff Elite ('Sayeret Matkal') is considered the best combat unit in the IDF, and one of the best Special Forces units in the world; a unit where the word 'professionalism' represents a way of life.
The warriors of the unit are selected with the utmost care, through rigorous tests and physical trials. The warriors specialize in commando operations and scouting (-including navigation and operation of a vast range of vehicles). In this unit, the most technologically advanced equipment that the IDF has at its disposal is put to use. The unit even has certain equipment that it alone uses.
Those troops, which were once a bastion of Israeli secularism now also have a large percentage of soldiers from religious families. The IDF reflects Israeli society, and just like when we first made aliyah, came to live in Israel, over forty years ago we rarely saw obviously religious bus drivers and policemen, now not only do we see lots of dati le'uimi, national religious men, and even women sometimes, in those sorts of jobs, you can also see those who appear chareidi.
Yes, again I must say that Israel has changed and army, IDF, is pragmatic. Those in charge may not have always expected to see strongly religious soldiers in certain positions and they certainly didn't expect so many soldiers to take time off to pray and insist on strictly kosher food and a succa on Succot, but they are pragmatic. They know that they must have the most sincere and dedicated and patriotic in critical positions and units.
It may have made for good "campaign promises" when party leaders like newbies Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett promised change in the army and immediate forced draft of chareidim (in Lapid's case,) but forcing someone to be a soldier isn't good for the army. It doesn't matter if he's extremely religious or extremely Leftist, the results are bad for the security of the country.
... forcing someone to be a soldier isn't good for the army. It doesn't matter if he's extremely religious or extremely Leftist, the results are bad for the security of the country.That's the bottom line. The IDF is changing with the socio-religious composition of the army,of its soldiers, and that's the way it should be.