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Israel Closer to Ultra-Orthodox Conscription

Examining the implications of the fall of the Tal Law

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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish children wear handcuffs as they protest against a uniform draft law to replace the Tal Law on July 16, 2012, in Jerusalem.(Getty)

On May 29, the Israeli government approved a proposal that would end the controversial exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the military. The Tal Law, as it was dubbed, was deemed unconstitutional by the Israeli Supreme Court last year. For ten years, the law provided Haredim with a military deferment until they turned 22 years old, and then during a “decision year” they chose whether to work for a year in civilian national service or enlist for 16 months. Then Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch explained, however, that the law had failed to recruit a significant number of Haredim to the military and that it was improperly enforced.

When Haredim learned of the law’s doubtful future, a record number volunteered to enlist as to prevent a mandatory conscription. But it seems their efforts faltered. The new proposal replacing the Tal Law will require all Haredim to register for enlistment at 17, but if they’re studying Torah they can still put off the army until they turn 21 years old. If the bill makes it all the way to law, a few problems may arise.

Problem 1: Many Haredi men would rather “fill the prisons” than enlist, said Pini Rozenberg, spokesman for the Haredi community. So while some might be ready to compromise, about 20,000 others took to the street to protest on May 17.

Problem 2: In those additional years between 17 and 21, Haredi men could get married—in which case the IDF would have to pay them additional salary to support their families, which would create a financial burden on the military.

It’s still uncertain whether this proposal will solve all the problems that the Tal Law initially created, but for now, the law’s impending demise is aggravating an already rocky relationship between secular and ultra-Orthodox Israelis.

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talis4 says:

Why don’t the ultra-Orthodox Jews, the Taliban, al quaeda, Christian fundamentalists and the rest just move to the Antarctic and spare the civilized world their ignorance. Israel has always been a bastion of freedom in one of the most repressive areas of the world. It is sad to see that because of the realities of reproduction, they may be doomed to becoming another island in that sea of ignorance that is the middle east.

No. Pini Rozenberg is not a “spokesman for the Haredi community.” He is affiliated with Eda Haredit. He was spokesman for a particular anti-conscription protest. Maybe just a mistake but maybe illustrates typical ignorance in the media about the diversity of opinions in the Haredi world.

The Wifely Person says:

If they live there, they serve. If they decide not to serve, don’t send them to prison, cut off their government subsidies. No stipends or any other kind of state support for men who choose not to serve. And for married men or women, no subsidies to their families, either. It is a family decision and while the decision must be respected, it cannot come without consequences.

Bernardz says:

If people do not want to serve, it is not worth forcing them as people like that make bad soldiers

ginzy1 says:

First my bona fides: All my kids (and kids-in-laws) either served in the IDF or did national service. One son was a combat medic (and continues to do so in the reserves); my other son was / is a tank commander; my son-in-law was / is a paratrooper.

One daughter did national service with the “One Family” organization helping victims of terrorism during the worst days of the Oslo Accords War. My daughter-in-law started out as a drill sergeant but couldn’t be mean enough so she switched to an office / desk job on a training base. My other daughter served in a non-combat, mission critical unit and continued to serve even after she got married even though she could have opted out (as an orthodox married woman, she covers her hair and did so even in uniform).

Lastly all my kids (and kids-in-law) are pursuing (or have pursued) university degrees; my oldest son is working on his doctorate in pharmacology / molecular biophysics.

We are all orthodox.

I wrote all the above to make it abundantly clear that IDF service and general secular educations are important to me and my family, as is our being orthodox Jews.

I personally very much want to see the Hareidim serve in the IDF and obtain a functional secular education so that they can work and support their families. I am a fan of the Nahal Hareidi infantry unit (soon to grow to brigade strength) and an even greater fan of the various Shahar programs initiated by the IDF in which married post-Kollel hareidim serve in mission-critical technical positions (and get an hour a day to study Daf HaYomi). Indeed over the past 5-10 years there has been steady growth in the number of Hareidim serving in the IDF, both in combat and in non-combat positions.

I work at the Malha Technology Park which houses the Hareidi College which is growing by leaps and bounds. I also see more and more Hareidim attending the Open University campus here (there are several campuses around the country). And I understand that Jerusalem is not unique in this regard.

I understand what Ya’ir Lapid is (in theory) trying to accomplish. However his bull-in-the-China-shop approach is counter-productive and will ultimately backfire, and may well reduce the number of Hareidim serving in the IDF, and pursuing secular studies. This view is shared by nearly all (or all) those Hareidim and non-Hareidim who are active in various programs that enable and encourage Hareidim to serve in the IDF or obtain a secular education and go to work.

I think Lapid (and much of the Yesh Atid slate) is blinded by their ignorance of the Hareidi world, their use of the service issue as a successful electoral tool, and most of all by their hatred of Hareidim. I do not believe his statements to the contrary.

Indeed I think Yair Lapid inherited his father’s (Tommy Lapid) frustration that Hareidim, and observant Jews in general, did not fulfill Ben Gurion’s prediction that religious Jews will dutifully disappear and become the “New Jews”. BTW, the IDF was supposed to be the “reaction vessel” for synthesizing the “New Jew” which is a major factor in Hareidi antipathy toward IDF service.

Many in the IDF establishment, including Defense Minister (and former IDF chief of staff) Moshe Ya’alon recognize Lapid’s folly. Let’s hope that the long legislative and implementation process for the bill introduces some sense into it.


Jerusalem / Efrata


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Israel Closer to Ultra-Orthodox Conscription

Examining the implications of the fall of the Tal Law

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