The Civilian and National Service Authority staged an event on Tuesday in
Jerusalem to honor over 600 haredi volunteers at national service programs,
attended by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau
and other public figures.
There are currently 3,885 haredim who have
finished or are currently serving in civilian service programs, in the fields of
welfare, public security, public health, immigration absorption and
environmental protection, according to the Civilian and National Service
Authority. Approximately 75 percent of recruits serve in the welfare
The Tal Law, which provided a legal framework for haredi men to
indefinitely defer military service through full-time yeshiva study, also allowed
them to enlist on a voluntary basis in one or two-year civilian service programs,
and fulfill their national service requirements in this manner.
one-year course entails 40 hours of service per week, whereas the two year
course is 20 hours a week.
Tuesday’s recognition ceremony comes as a
replacement for the Tal Law – struck down by the High Court of Justice earlier
this year as unconstitutional – is being debated in a special committee in the
Yishai, who has argued against replacing the Tal Law with
legislation that would forcibly draft haredi men into national service programs,
reiterated his stance at the ceremony, saying that anyone who wishes to study
Torah must be allowed to do so.
The Keshev Committee, tasked with
proposing alternatives to the Tal Law, is seeking a way to “undermine Torah
study,” Yishai claimed. He added that the only way to increase haredi
participation in military or civilian service was is increase the budget for it,
and said that up until now the IDF has not wanted to draft haredim anyway,
fearing that large numbers of ultra-Orthodox men entering the army would change
Addressing the ranks of haredi volunteers, Civilian and
National Service Authority head Sar-Shalom Jerbi also spoke out strongly against
any forcible draft of haredim into national service.
into national service needs to be done through understanding, not coercion,”
Haim, a 28-year-old from Bnei Brak who attended the ceremony,
said he had volunteered for civilian service in order to both contribute to
society and enter the workforce.
He signed up for a two-year course of
working in care for the elderly, four hours a day. He is also studying civil
engineering part time and spends an hour a day learning in yeshiva.
important to give back to society and do something for the country,” said Haim,
adding that many of his friends had joined up at the same time as he
A number of other dignitaries spoke during the event, including
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz and Rabbi Yitzhak Dovid
Grossman, a member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate and founder of the
Migdal Ohr network of educational institutions.
Speaking about this
week’s Torah portion, Grossman told the volunteers that the spies sent out by
Moses to report on the land of Israel erred because they did not want to descend
into the material world, which would be necessary once the entered the
But, he said, the point of existence is to enter into the
physical and turn it into something spiritual.
“All of you, through your
service, have served as an example and have sanctified God’s name in so doing.
You have brought the Jewish people closer to their heritage and have brought
spirituality into the physical realm,” said Grossman.