Israeli Cabinet approves text of Haredi army draft law - World Jewish Congress

Israeli Cabinet approves text of Haredi army draft law

Israeli Cabinet approves text of Haredi army draft law

B e d db f e a c b

The Israeli government unanimously approved a draft law on Sunday to abolish wholesale exemptions from military duty granted to Jewish seminary students, stoking anger among the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community over what some call a break with tradition. Under the proposed law, only 1,800 Haredi students, designated “outstanding biblical scholars”, would get an exemption, out of the estimated 8,000 who become eligible for the draft every year.

“The government’s abuse of the Haredi minority verges on persecution and cruelty,” Meir Porush, an ultra-Orthodox legislator from the opposition United Torah Judaism party, said about the decision taken by the Netanyahu government.

Some ultra-Orthodox rabbis argue that the study of the holy scriptures is a foundation of Jewish life and scholars have a right to devote themselves full time to the task. “This is a stain on the State of Israel, which has become the only country in the world to determine that studying the Scriptures is not legitimate,” another United Torah Judaism legislator, Moshe Gafni, told reporters.

Hoping to avoid any immediate confrontation, the government agreed to delay any sanctions against draft-dodgers by imposing a four-year interim period in which the military will encourage young Haredim to enlist. “We will make this change gradually through consideration for the special needs of the ultra-Orthodox community,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in public remarks at the Cabinet meeting, where ministers voted 14-0, with four abstentions, to approve the proposed law.

Some 3,500 Haredim already serve in the Israel Defense Forces, and a recent study by the Economy Ministry found that 70 percent of ultra-Orthodox soldiers entered the workforce after they completed their service. By contrast, only 45 percent of all Haredi men were employed, according to the central bank.

Haredim make up 10 percent of Israel’s eight million population and they are expanding rapidly, with families of 10 children not uncommon. The draft legislation, which will be brought to parliament for ratification, would be implemented fully in four years’ time.