High Court hears final petitions for and against haredi IDF service

After years of court fights and with a new historic law anticipated, the High the last gasp of the many petitions were heard.

March 12, 2014 04:57
3 minute read.
Israel's Supreme Court

Israeli Supreme Court 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/FILE)

After years of court fights and with a new historic law anticipated, the High Court of Justice on Tuesday heard the last gasp of the many petitions for and against drafting haredim into the IDF.

The result was anticlimactic.

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With the Knesset about to pass legislation completely reordering the law governing the issue, the High Court, the coalition of groups pushing for drafting haredim, most of the haredi groups, and a group of hesder yeshivot all either withdrew their requests or admitted they did not have much to add, since the new law would change the playing field.

Only the Knesset Yehezkel Elad Association, claiming to represent 2,029 haredi yeshiva students (a small minority of the tens of thousands in other associations who were originally affected), pushed forward with a request that the court undo its order vetoing subsidies to certain haredi yeshivot whose students were not joining the IDF.

The association had claimed that neither it nor its students had known or been given any formal legal notice about the High Court petitions and had been suddenly caught offguard regarding the loss of subsidies. It explained that its students did not follow the regular media or watch television, and as such had been unaware that part of their financing was at stake. They therefore had not had a chance to fight in court on their own behalf.

The association met with significant cynicism from the court and the state, which echoed each other’s arguments that there was a new law that would change the issue’s parameters anyway, and that the association could not possibly claim after years of hearings that neither it nor the students were on notice.

The court in particular pressed the association to explain when it had first learned of the legal proceedings, and was unimpressed when the association appeared to evade answering the question.

The state added that there were 1,146 yeshivot and that the state could not possibly have given legal notice to each individual yeshiva. Rather, the state said, the central representatives of the yeshivot were clearly on notice, since they had fought the petitions.

In February, before it was clear how quickly the new law relating to haredi IDF service would pass, a group of mostly religious-Zionist yeshivot – along with the association – had filed a motion to the High Court of Justice demanding that it reverse the interim order canceling subsidies for students who did not respond to their draft notices.

Earlier in February, the High Court’s interim order ignited a public war of words and protests by finally taking at least partial action against haredi yeshiva students who had been ignoring their draft notices since their exemption from military service under the “Tal Law” expired in August 2012.

The court’s order did not impact the majority of religious- Zionist yeshiva students – such as those in the hesder program, which combines years of Torah study with military service – since they already serve in the IDF.

However, a significant minority of those students enroll in special tracks, and these tracks lost their subsidies.

For example, many students enroll in religious-Zionist mechina programs – one-year preparatory programs for students with weaker Jewish-studies backgrounds, or those who simply have not decided whether to do hesder or regular army service.

The interim order was another major factor in spurring forward the current legislation; legislators were seeking to avoid a situation in which the haredi yeshiva students would immediately begin losing subsidies on a broad scale.

According to the state, there have been no cuts in subsidies so far, nor are there expected to be any, in light of the anticipated new law.

The court did not issue a ruling on Tuesday, but it is expected to reject the last remaining petition, especially considering the new round of petitions that will likely be filed once the new bill becomes law.

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