Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Wednesday,
Aug 27th
Home News Israel Thousands of haredim reject call to arms

Thousands of haredim reject call to arms

E-mail Print PDF

Thousands of haredim protest in the western part of Jerusalem against the draft bill for haredi men, March 2, 2014.JERUSALEM — Beneath banners invoking historic calamities, hundreds of thousand of haredi Orthodox men gathered on the streets of Jerusalem to recite psalms and penitential prayers as they inveighed against an Israeli army draft plan.

Masses of bearded men poured into the streets Sunday, March 2, for a protest cum prayer rally against a proposed law to include haredi Orthodox Jews in Israel’s mandatory military draft.

The bill, which passed a critical committee vote on Feb. 20, has the support of Israel’s governing coalition and will likely soon go to the floor of the Knesset, where it is expected to pass.

Though the bill wouldn’t penalize haredi draft dodgers until 2017, it has nonetheless exacerbated a long-simmering kulturkampf.

Mandatory military service is a rite of passage in Israel, one from which haredi Israelis have been exempt since the state’s founding in 1948. Many Israelis see the bill as a vital step toward “equalizing the burden,” as the campaign for its passage calls itself.

“A historical legal injustice that has existed for 65 years has been corrected because we were determined and stood for what was ours,” Yair Lapid, chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid political party, wrote in a lengthy Facebook post — his primary mode of public communication — after the vote.

“Everyone looked at us and understood that we wouldn’t capitulate, because these are our values. Zionism is back, and it’s returned with esprit de corps.”

Yesh Atid sits in Israel’s first governing coalition without haredi parties in a decade, one that has advanced a spate of initiatives to curb haredi Orthodox culture.

Along with conscription reform, the past year has seen the government move toward recognizing non-Orthodox Judaism, instituting civil marriage, mandating math and English classes in haredi schools and slashing subsidies to large haredi families.

MANY Israelis see these measures as steps toward a more equal and fair society, but in the eyes of many haredim, they are a threat to their way of life and even to Jewish tradition.

Haredi journalist Aharon Kravitz told JTA, “The haredi community feels that the Torah centers in Europe were destroyed, and the haredi community took upon itself to recreate [in Israel] centers where we learn Torah.”

While the Israel Defense Forces annually drafts about 2,000 haredi teenagers into special religious units, most of the 7,500 haredi boys that turn 18 annually receive exemptions to study in yeshivas.

The proposed law would essentially flip those statistics: 1,800 haredi students would receive exemptions and state funding to study, Torah, while the IDF would aim to draft 5,200 haredim annually by 2016.

By 2017, any haredi Jew who dodges the draft would, like other draft dodgers, face prison time.

Under the proposed law, haredim would enter the draft only at 24, instead of the standard enlistment age of 18.

But if the IDF does not succeed in drafting 5,200 haredim annually by 2017, that provision would be cancelled and all haredim would enter the draft at age 18.

Kravitz says the bill would criminalize Torah study, but in the eyes of activists who support it, it doesn’t go far enough.

Rabbi Uri Regev, director of the religious pluralism organization Hiddush, said that the bill’s delay of criminal sanctions until 2017 provides time for haredim to run in another election and possibly re-enter the governing coalition, where they might be able to roll back the law.

Regev also doubts that Israel will be able to imprison thousands of haredim if they disobey the law en masse.

“Imprisonment is not an effective measure when you’re not dealing with individual offenders but thousands who theologically reject service.”

At Sunday’s protest, some haredi men said they trust G-d to protect them from the bill. Klemi, 22, a student at Jerusalem’s Mir Yeshiva who didn’t give his last name, said that yeshiva students are the main guardians of Israel.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 06 March 2014 13:33 )  

IJN e-Edition

This is only a taste! Get full access to the IJN via our e-Edition, only $14.04 for IJN Print subscribers.

E-Edition subscribers get access to a complete digital replica of the IJN, which includes all special sections.

Get the IJN's free newsletter!

Shabbat Times

JTA News

Arab-Israeli killer in Michigan prison seeking deportation to Israel

Marcy Oster An Arab-Israeli immigrant to the United States who is serving a life sentence for murder has sued the U.S. government in a bid to be deported to Israel. ... [Link]

Israeli civilian injured by Syrian mortar on Golan Heights

Marcy Oster An Israeli man was wounded when a mortar shell fired from Syria struck Israel’s Golan Heights. ... [Link]

Netanyahu: Hamas ‘begged’ for cease-fire

Marcy Oster Hamas did not achieve any of its demands in the wake of Israel’s operation in Gaza and “begged” for a cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. ... [Link]

Elsewhere: Hollywood hate, endogamy blues, Silicon Wadi?

Talia Lavin JTA sums up noteworthy items from around the Web. ... [Link]

Roman Vishniac archive chronicling pre-Shoah Eastern Europe goes online

Marcy Oster An archive of photographs taken by Roman Vishniac is available online. ... [Link]

Israeli toddler riding in car hurt in West Bank rock throwing

Marcy Oster An Israeli toddler traveling in a car in the West Bank was injured by rocks thrown by masked Palestinians. ... [Link]

Netanyahu’s plummeting poll numbers

Ben Sales How did Bibi’s approval ratings drop from 82 percent to 38 percent in just a month? ... [Link]

State Dept. calls for due process for U.S. citizen held in Israel

Marcy Oster The U.S. State Department called for the speedy resolution to the case of a U.S. citizen being held in an Israeli jail. ... [Link]

Intermountain Jewish News • 1177 Grant Street • Denver, CO 80203 • 303 861 2234 • FAX 303 832 6942
email@ijn.com • larry@ijn.com • lori@ijn.com