Details of the terms for a bill regulating national service for haredi men
emerged on Thursday following the tentative agreement between Likud Beytenu,
Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi to form a government on Wednesday
However, a final deal was yet to be signed by press time on
According to Bayit Yehudi sources, there will be a quota
of 1,800 yeshiva students every year who will be able to obtain full national
service exemptions, a large increase from the 400 demanded by Yesh
Approximately 7,000 haredi men turn 18 every year.
students exempt from service will receive ongoing state support until age 26,
and at a higher rate than currently granted. All other yeshiva students will be
able to postpone their national service for three years until the age of 21, but
will not be funded after that age.
A yeshiva student with a
government-granted military exemption will be subject to financial penalties if
he halts his full-time studies before the age of 26.
If a yeshiva student
refuses to enlist in the IDF or civilian service after the age of 21 he will be
subject to economic sanctions but, crucially, not criminal
Details of the different economic penalties are not yet clear,
but ideas that have been floated in various plans have included the revocation
of discounts for child daycare and a subsidized housing benefits tax that
full-time yeshiva students have enjoyed until now, along with other similar
These combined measures would constitute a significant blow to
yeshiva budgets and the overall haredi purse.
The damage such a law would
do to the financial viability of yeshivot and, if personal financial sanctions
are indeed imposed, to the average haredi family, will be heavy and may leave
many men no choice but to join the workforce or enlist.
incentives will be granted to those electing to serve in order to encourage
enlistment. In a significant move, anyone electing not to enlist after 21 will
be able to join the workforce, something which until now has not been possible
until the age of exemption, currently 28, but previously as old as
This, a Bayit Yehudi source said, would extricate haredi men from the
trap of not wanting to enlist and thus being unable to enter the workforce and
contribute to the economy.
These terms represent a serious compromise on
the issue from Yesh Atid, but will nevertheless be bitterly opposed by the
haredi spiritual and political leadership, even though the proposed solution to
haredi enlistment does not criminalize those refusing to perform national
service and allows them to continue studying in yeshiva.
According to the
coalition agreement, the length of military service for all soldiers will be
reduced from three years to two and the legislation on enlistment will be
brought to the Knesset within 45 days of the new government being sworn
Such a law would inflict deep cuts to the budgets of yeshivot for
unmarried students and to the pockets of married students in full-time study and
would present a serious challenge to the ongoing viability of continuous,
indefinite full-time study after the age of 21.
Shahar Ilan, deputy
director of the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group, said that if the
proposed measures are implemented, it would constitute a “revolution” in Israeli
He added however that in the short term, it could well lead to
strong opposition from the haredi leadership and public involving civil
disobedience on par with the actions of the hard-core of the settler movement
leading up to the 2005 disengagement from Gaza.
“The idea that haredim
think differently than the rest of the public and are not affected by financial
considerations is ridiculous,” Ilan said.
“They need to feed themselves
and their children and if they can only do this by going to the workforce
instead of learning, then they will go to work.”
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