Clash of im­mov­able ob­jects prom­ises headaches for all

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

THIS WEEK’S High Court de­ci­sion is the lat­est de­vel­op­ment in a saga that has been go­ing for nearly two decades – but it is hard to see how a so­lu­tion can be reached within the one-year dead­line also handed down.

Two im­mov­able ob­jects col­lided long ago and no com­pro­mise has yet suc­ceeded in budg­ing them. Charedi rab­bis are adamant that un­der no con­di­tion can yeshiva stu­dents be forced to close their vol­umes of Tal­mud and don uni­forms. They have be­hind them the po­lit­i­cal power of Charedi par­ties, a cru­cial part of Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s coali­tion. Charedi politi­cians have been quick to pro­claim that no force in the world will stop their young men from study­ing To­rah – although they have not raised the prospect of bring­ing down the gov­ern­ment over the is­sue. They are all too aware of how popular the univer­sal con­scrip­tion cause is, and are re­luc­tant to prompt an elec­tion over it. They fear it will only serve to boost the vote of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which has cham­pi­oned draft­ing yeshiva stu­dents. Mean­while the groups pe­ti­tion­ing the court will not stop their cam­paign for draft­ing yeshiva stu­dents — it is a popular cause with a ma­jor­ity of Is­raelis.

Their only al­ter­na­tive now is a law by­pass­ing the High Court, which has long been the dream of both the rightwing and re­li­gious par­ties, an­gry at the ac­tivist court’s habit of “in­ter­fer­ing” in Knes­set leg­is­la­tion.

The prob­lem is that there are not cur­rently enough votes in the Knes­set to pass such a law.

Ar­guably the most im­por­tant or­gan­i­sa­tion in the de­bate – the army it­self – has not yet weighed in on the rul­ing. For the gen­er­als, this is an

or­gan­i­sa­tional night­mare. Over the past 18 years, the IDF has grad­u­ally been open­ing spe­cial units, cour­ses and mil­i­tary pro­fes­sions for strictly Ortho­dox sol­diers, where they can serve while main­tain­ing their re­li­gious stan­dards. This in­cludes, among other things, serv­ing in a male-only en­vi­ron­ment. At the same time the IDF has been open­ing up more roles to fe­male sol­diers and the army would like to see more sol­diers en­list­ing from all of so­ci­ety. But progress is slow.

They can’t say so in pub­lic, but the mil­i­tary per­son­nel chiefs much pre­fer the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in which the num­bers of strictly Ortho­dox sol­diers join­ing an­nu­ally is grow­ing very slowly. The High Court rul­ing is just an­other headache they could do with­out.


Strictly Ortho­dox Jewish men protest against the army draft

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