In the midst of the political turmoil surrounding the universal draft bill, an 18-year-old ultra-Orthodox youth is set to make history by being the first haredi to enlist in the IAF's hugely prestigious flying school.
Becoming a flight pilot is a childhood dream for Y., whose father heads a Chabad center, and expected his son to follow the family tradition and devote himself wholesale to the study of Torah. "I'm proud to enlist in the IDF in order to protect the Jewish people in the most meaningful way possible," Y. told family members one month before the imminent draft.
"Of course the study of Torah is a supreme value, yet I'm out to show that being an observant Jew is not in contradiction with serving in the IDF's elite units. One can contribute in this manner too." Y.'s family was supportive of his choice.
"We don't mean to encourage all haredi youths to enlist in the army, god forbid," the teenager's father told Yedioth Ahronoth. "We believe that just as the IDF protects Israel and it is a great honor to serve in it, the study of Torah protects the Jews as well.
"We need both soldiers and Torah students to protect Israel. From the moment that Y. decided to not continue his studies at the yeshiva we extend all possible support so that he makes it throughout the course, including maintaining his faith."
The IDF's three-year flying course is considered extraordinary in difficulty, and only a small proportion of applicants complete it.
Y. is a graduate of the first year of the Torah Leadership Academy, a special preparatory institution designed to facilitate integration within the military for haredi youths. "We are trailblazers," he told Yedioth Ahronoth a year ago. "The experiment is working. There is no other institution in Israel that provides these options to able haredi youths who don't fit in at the yeshiva, yet want to live with dignity."
Meanwhile, Y. is spending the weeks before enlistment by poring over holy books.