Make the Ultra-Orthodox Serve

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Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court struck down the Tal Law, which grants ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students an exemption from military service. The Court’s decision raises questions about whether Haredim will serve in the army in large numbers. In an op-ed in Haaretz, IDI Senior Researcher Yair Sheleg argues that there will not be conscription equality in the near future but the process of integrating Haredim (and Arabs) into national service is a worthy goal.

 Special congratulations are due to the High Court of Justice judges who handed down a ruling declaring the Tal Law, which allowed full-time yeshiva students to defer national service, illegal. They should be congratulated first and foremost for the decision itself and for not being influenced by attempts to mislead them. The state presented a false picture that one quarter of young, army-age Haredim - some 1,700 out of 7,000 - are already conscripted into the Israel Defense Forces or do civilian national service. But those numbers refer to Haredim of different ages, not only those who have just turned 18. Those who do military or national service are Haredim of other ages too, and so in actual fact the number stands at only four percent in every age group.  

The ruling should also be welcomed because of the judges' readiness to show clear judicial activism. It is true that judicial activism, especially when it relates to invalidating laws, is extremely problematic, but it is completely justified when referring to so blatant a case of discrimination. In this case, the High Court took upon itself the task of being the "decisive weapon" of the camp that serves, and in this way has created a balance of terror to counter the political "decisive weapon" of the ultra-Orthodox public . . .


Read the full article on the Haaretz website


Yair Sheleg is a Research Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute.