Insight: In Israeli military, a growing orthodoxy


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Israeli soldiers pray at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City February 22, 2012. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has always been a 'Jewish' army. Its rations are kosher, its chaplains are rabbis, and it operates - with the exception of wartime - around the festival calendar. It has never drafted soldiers from Israel's 20-percent Arab minority. But its Jewish identity has always been more cultural than religious. IDF personnel data suggests that's changing. Around 57 percent of Israel's Jewish majority, census figures show, define themselves as religiously observant to some degree. Two relatively small but distinct groups of religious Israelis are growing both in numbers and in power in the military: the ascetic, often apolitical and ultra-pious 'haredim', who join up despite their community's exemption from conscription; and pro-settlement Orthodox Jews, whose dogma focuses less on religious rite and more on the sanctity of Israel's fight for territorial expansion. REUTERS/Baz Ratner