Religious Zionists today make up about seven percent of the total population of the country. But their sons comprise twenty percent of IDF combat soldiers, nearly a quarter of the IDF’s junior officer corps, and fifty percent of its company commanders.
The growing prominence of religious Zionists in all combat arms of the IDF is a consequence of a now two-decade trend among religious Zionists in Israel to serve in combat units – the more elite, the better. A contrary trend among upper middle class secular youth not to serve in the IDF at all renders the contribution of the religious youth all the more noticeable to the general public and all the more crucial for the IDF.
That latter trend has found a sympathetic audience in Yediot’s pages. Just last month the paper ran a cover story in its weekend magazine showcasing the daughter of the deputy head of the Mossad. The young woman is now anticipating prison in the wake of her refusal to serve in the army due to her anti-Zionist ideological beliefs.
These countervailing social currents of increased religious participation and decreased secular participation in fighting units was brought to the public’s attention in a graphic manner during the Second Lebanon War. In the course of the war, only one soldier from Tel Aviv was killed in battle while over a dozen soldiers from religious communities were killed in combat.
A secular society is one that will not last long. From having children to military service, secular cultures have shown themselves unwilling to do the things that a culture needs to do to survive. Most conservatives would agree with this observation.
But conservatives tend to take it for granted that what will replace a secular culture will be better as long as it does not come from outside the racial/cultural subgroup that they belong to. I have no such confidence.