Posts Tagged With: National Service

Support for Supreme Court Tal Decision; Little Faith in Real Change

According to the February Peace Index, 68% of the general population and 71% of Israeli Jews agree with the Israeli Supreme Court that the Tal Law “creates inequality between Israeli population groups that serve in the army and other groups, such as the ultra-Orthodox and minorities, which do not serve in the army.”

The Tal Law, originally passed in 2002, was designed as an answer to a 1997 High Court ruling that the practice of giving ad hoc administrative exemptions to Haredim was illegal. The law was supposed to ease the Haredi community into national service, but failed to do so.  In February, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the law had failed to address inequalities in the burden of national defense and service.

The number of people supporting the supreme courts decision is slightly higher than the Hiddush’s recent study which found 69% of Israelis concurring with the Supreme Court decision. This is the second study confirm a public consensus behind the rejection of the Tal law.

However, Israelis have very low expectations that the Supreme Court decision will result in substantive changes. When asked to rate the change that ” that the government will indeed act in the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling and bring about mandatory conscription or mandatory national-civilian service for all groups in Israeli society”, only 22% of Israelis expected a moderately high or very high chance of change. Israeli Jews were even more skeptical: only 19% expected a high or very high chance of change.

The Peace Index poll is a monthly telephone survey sponsored by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. The January survey took place on February 28-29 and included 600 respondents. Survey results have a 4.5% margin of error. The questions on the survey vary from month to month.

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Service for All: 82% of Israeli Jews support a law of mandatory conscription for yeshiva students

by Hiddush staff, crossposted with permission from Hiddush blog.

Nahal Haredi Soldiers

68%, more than two-thirds of the Jewish population of Israel, including 81% of Likkud voters, support withholding public funding for yeshiva students if they refuse to enlist in military or civil service. 82% of the Jewish Israeli population hold that in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling that invalidates the Tal Law, a new law must be passed to enforce mandatory conscription of all or most yeshiva students into service. 69% support the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the Tal Law.

These are the findings of a new poll conducted by the Smith Institute on behalf of Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel, Inc. The poll was conducted in the last week of February, based on a representative sample of 500 adult Jews in Israel.

Hiddush President, Rabbi Uri Regev says “The poll proves unequivocally that the Israeli public is sick and tired with politically motivated mass exemption [currently app. 60,000, about 14% of the conscription] and is demanding mandatory service for yeshiva students. Integration of the ultra-Orthodox population into service will only happen if public funding for yeshiva students is conditional upon that service. The question is whether the government leaders will stay true to the voters who elected them and to the core values of Israel”

69% of the Jewish Israeli population, 83% of secular Israelis and 84% of recent immigrants (typically from the Former Soviet Union) support the Supreme Court decision invalidating the Tal Law. 29% are opposed to the decision. 86% of the ultra-Orthodox population opposed it. Of those who supported the Court decision: 87% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters, 73% of Likud voters, and 30% of voters for ultra-Orthodox parties. This somewhat surprising result can be explained by the fact that among Shas voters, there is a significant number of traditional and religious Jews who oppose army exemption for yeshiva students.

52% of the Israeli Jewish public support the passing of a new law that requires service, either military or civil, of all yeshiva students, and another 30% support recruiting all except for a limited number of outstanding yeshiva students. Altogether, 82% are in favor of mandatory recruitment for all or most yeshiva students into service. Of secular Israelis, 96% are in favor of such a law. Among religious respondents who are not ultra-Orthodox, 51% are against such a law and 49% are in favor. 91% of Likud voters are in favor of such legislation, 95% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters and 100% of Kadima voters.

85% of secular respondents, 87% of recent immigrants and 68% of the Jewish Israeli population as a whole are in favor of denying subsidies for those yeshiva students who do not serve. Of all respondents, Likud voters showed the highest support for such withholding of subsidies, 81% supporting, more than the 79% of both Yisrael Beiteinu and Kadima voters. 52% of voters for right wing religious parties supported withholding subsidies.

*The Tal Law, named after Justice Tal who chaired the committee that recommended it, was passed in 1999 and was meant to provide a legislated framework to the long standing administrative practice of exempting yeshiva students from military service. It was intended to encourage greater participation in both military and civil service, as well as the workforce. In six months, the law will expire and it is widely held that it failed its purpose and provided for only negligible growth in each of these areas.

HIddush is an organization dedicated to promoting religious freedom and diversity and realizing the promise of Israel’s Founders as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

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While Haredi Leaders Rattle Swords, Haredim Enlist in Record Numbers?

According to Arutz Sheva, sources close to the IDF reported that after last week’s announcement of the end of the Tal Law, thousands of young Haredi men visited the IDF recuritment offices and registered for the draft. If this is true, then a single Supreme Court announcemnt encouraged more recuits in one week than had signed up in all of 2010.

This news comes admist cries to fight to the death from Haredi leadership. On Friday, Rabbi Shlomo Auerbach published a letter in the Hebrew edition of Yated saying that Charedim should resist the draft even at the price of death. On Sunday, United Torah Judaism and Shas made a joint announcement that any change to the status quo was unacceptable. Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said “”We have no existence without Torah, we will give our lives for it,” .

But will they? Are we wise to be measuring the situation by looking at Haredi leaders, or is the Haredi community like any authoritarian regime: a society whose real opinion simply can’t be measured by looking at the public face?

Rav Dov Halbertal, a follower of Rav Elyashiv,  believes the Haredi community is fully behind their leadership, even if it means essentially negating the authority of the State  and following their rabbis as a separate theocratic government. On Monday he was interviewed by Kol Israel. When asked about the Haredi communities likely response to the Supreme Court decision he said:

Do you think [High Court Justice Elyakim] Rubinstein or the other two High Court justices are going to teach Rav Elyashiv about Moshe Rabbeinu? I don’t say this cynically. They may be outstanding justices but they are not talmidei chachamim and their opinion does not have a bearing on the actions of the chareidi community…. The gedolei hador guide us and we adhere to their words. The gedolei hador do not sit in the High Court, but in our community and they alone will make decisions for the chareidi tzibur…. no one is serving in the army as a result of the court’s decision and if they do not understand this, they are lying to you and your children. I am sorrowed over this, but Bibi for example is deceiving the public. Nothing is going to change.

Rav Dov Halbertal made the Haredi news last October because he argued that the Haredi community should stop all the religious deal making. Instead they should be fighting for a separation of religion and state, even if that means the state will accept Reform conversion. Even if there is an economic price, the benefits outweigh them. Separation would allow haredim to follow their life style in purity. It would also elminate the hatred caused by forced secular observane. People could again love and see the beauty in Judaism because anger would not be clouding their eyes.

Despite the joint statement on Sunday, United Torah Judaism and Shas may not be as united as it first seems. UTJ, Shlomo Auerbach, Dov Halbertal and Rav Elyashiv all come from the Ashkenazi faction of the Haredi community. The Ashkenazim have a reputation for being ideologically driven.

Shas, on the other hand, tends to be more pragmatic when pushed to the wall. On Saturday night during his usual Motzei Shabbat radio address, Ovadia Yosef told his followers not to go on the attack. They should keep studying and “Hashem will fight the war”. As for the joint declaration, HaAretz reported that some Shas members critized their leadershipfor”kneeling before the Ashkenazi leadership, which has taken a militant line.”

Back in December, Eliashiv told his followers that they shouldn’t go to college. While secular Israel was aghast at such a stance, former Eda Haredit spokesman Shmuel Pappenheim and several others argued that the declaration was in fact a sign of diminishing power. Eliashiv was making stern pronouncements precisely because more and more Haredim were defying the rabbis and seeking out work and trainging so they could have the skills needed to have a good income.

It may well be that all of the fierce statements coming from the Haredi politicians in fact recognizes that they are out of time and options. This is certainly one way to read one angry remark from a Haredi politician. According to Arutz Sheva, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman accused Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch of playing hit and run: “Judges know politics, too,” he explained. “They know how to leave an impression for the years to come.”

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Countdown to Purim, 5772: Hesder Style in Australia

Today’s pre-Purim video is from teachers in Australia’s Torah MiTzion program. The Torah MiTzion program brings graduates from the Israeli army’s Hesder programs to teach in Jewish Day Schools in Australia.

The Hesder program allows Israelis Continue reading

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Haredi National Service: Why It Might Not Be Business as Ususal

by Krembo1 (Creative Commns with attribution)

Two days after the Israeli Supreme Court overthrew the Tal Law, reactions and hopes are all over the map. There are those who expect nothing to change, those who are ready for culture war, and those who think both reactions are overblown or in denial. It is difficult to know who will be right, but one thing is clear the Supreme Court decision, the summer protests, and the agitation about the exclusion of women this fall and winter have fundamentally changed the facts on the ground. Continue reading

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Auerbach: Resistance to National Service Draft Is Worth Dying For

Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach

The Haredi community has begun responding in the wake of Tuesday’s overturning of the Tal Law, thus raising the spector of mandatory national service for all Haredim. On Thursday morning, a leading Haredi rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach issued a statement telling Haredim that manadory army and national service would amount to an uprooting of Torah and should be resisted at all costs, even to the point of Kiddush HaShem. (full Hebrew text here)

Fiery words aside, students at Jerusalem’s Hebron Yeshiva said they simply couldn’t believe they would ever serve. They pointed out the challenges of simultaneously imprisoning 60,000-plus citizens. In reality the worse case scenario would be the withdrawal of government funds from yeshivas. The Yeshivas would be forced to look elsewhere for funds and worse come to worse, the students would just eat less.   However, if it were to come to the extreme one of the students said serving in the army is so against Haredi identity that people would indeed die rather than serve.

All this sounds like firm intractable opposition from the Haredi community. However, if one looks a little deeper, all might not be as it seems. Continue reading

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Supreme Court: Tal Law Cannot be Renewed, Fails Proportionality Standard

Today the Israeli High Court of Justice, the Israeli equivalent of the US Supreme Court, ruled that the Tal Law is “unconstitutional” because it does not fairly distribute the burden of mandatory military service.

The Tal Law, originally passed in 2002, must be renewed every five years. It was designed as an answer to a 1997 High Court ruling that the practice of giving ad hoc administrative exemptions to Haredim was illegal. Israel must either pass a law that officially exempts Haredim or else develop a scheme by which all Israelis share the burden of national service, whether Haredi or not.

The law required all Israelis to serve in the army, but allowed full time Talmud students to defer their service until age 23. In practice this meant that many never served at all. Ultra-Orthodox men typically marry at a young age. By the time students had reached age 23 they were married with children. Outside of national emergencies, married men with children are normally exempt. By contrast, people who were not full time Yeshiva students started serving at age 17, long before marriage and children would have exempted them. Thus the law gave a de facto exemption that applied almost exclusively to children raised in ultra-orthodox environments.

The High Court voted 6-3 to declare the Tal Law illegal. The outgoing court President,  Dorit Beinisch, was among the six.  The three dissenting   judges were  Eliezer Rivlin, Edna Arbel, and the  incoming High Court President Asher Grunis.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Independence),  MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), and MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima)  all welcomed the decision.  All had three had been active in opposing renewal of the law earlier this month.   According to the Forward, Barak concurred with the courts assessment that the law had failed in its goal of ensuring that the burden of service was equally shared:

The Tal Law, after ten years, did not meet expectations, nor did it lead to the required changes in all aspects concerning equally sharing the burden and expanding the number of citizens who undertake the civilian obligations.

Today’s ruling is a response to a 2007 petition filed against the Tal Law by the Movement for Quality Government, attorney Yehuda Ressler, former Shinui MK and minister Avraham Poraz, former Meretz MK Ran Cohen, and and attorney Itay Ben-Horin from the Forum for Equality in the Burden of Military Service.

Last month the High Court heard arguments in the case and warned that the government needed to show proof that the burden of military service was equally distributed. If it could not, the Tal Law would fail to meet the “proportionality test” and be declared illegal. Israel’s laws must conform to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. The proportionality test requires that the benefits of the law must outweigh any harm that the law causes to the principal of equality demanded by the Basic Law.

This is most likely not the end of legislative attempts to exempt Haredim from national service. The Times of Israel reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants the Knesset to draft a revised law that will give Haredi men exemptions from the IDF.

Shas has also expressed hopes that a new law can be found. AP and the Jewish Chronicle both reported Yakov Betzalel, Shas party spokesman saying that he does not see the court decision triggering any sort of coalition crisis. According to AP, “he was confident seminary students would continue to pursue religious studies rather than serve, and expressed hope a new military exemption deal would be struck that would meet the court’s standards.”

The Tal Law has sparked considerable debate since it was first passed in 2002. For a fuller discussion of its history and the objections to it, see “Why a Revised Tal Law is Not Enough”.

Last updated: 3:10pm, 2012-02-22

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Why a Revised Tal Law is Not Enough

Simply coming up with new law to replace the Tal law is not enough. One also must change heart, mind, and process that guides the making and enforcing of law. Otherwise there will be no end to the creative end-runs around whatever law is passed.

David Ben Gurion

In the early days of the state, Ben Gurion made a deal with certain Jewish communities. Ben Gurion exempted yeshiva students from army service in exchange for their community’s agreement not to interfere with the newly formed state.

No formal law was passed to enshrine the deal. Rather the government simply granted automatic army deferrments to yeshiva students until they were eithr too old to serve in the army or were legally exempt through parenthood.

In 1997 the Israeli supreme court ruled that ad hoc administrative deferrments were illegal. The government either had to pass a formal law exempting yeshiva students from the army or else induct them on the same terms as students studying in secular schools. Other ethnic groups with army exemptions, were exempt by law. If he Haredim also wanted to be exempt, a law making them exempt had to be passed.

In the late 1990’s there was considerable opposition to a law that gave a permanent blanket deferrment for army students. The Tal law was designed as a compromise bill. Non yeshiva students would be drafted. Howver, genuine yeshiva students would be allowed to continue their talmudic studies up until age 23. After that point they would join the army for a short period, learn vocational skills, leave the army, and join the work force. Army service and work would help the Haredim be self-supporting and integrate into wider society, thus building a stronger economy and national identity.

At least that was the way it was sold to the general Israeli public. The reality however was quite different. Continue reading

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