Sir, – It is essential that whatever law is drafted to replace the Tal Law it
should apply to everyone.
If it is tilted to favor haredi sensibilities
it will merely continue to stoke animosity against haredim. Furthermore, it will
eventually be struck down by the Supreme Court.
Any application of
punitive measures will fail. It is simply impossible to punish such a large and
cohesive section of the population in this way. Of course, without some form of
coercion, nothing will be achieved.
The solution is simple: Removing
child allowances even on a partial basis would apply enough pressure to achieve
a satisfactory result. It would be effective, easy to administer and would apply
equally to all.
Some may prefer to postpone their service until they have
completed their education; some might prefer to learn in a
That’s fine, but if they have children before serving, their
child allowance would be reduced.
The army has already made it easier for
haredim to serve by establishing units that accommodate their religious
But the army can do more. The recent incident in which
soldiers were punished for refusing to attend a concert where women were singing
Possibly as a sop, the new rules could be implemented on a
reduced level initially, with full implementation after a few years. The
advantage of this approach is its simplicity and effectiveness, and the fact
that it would apply equally to Arabs, haredim and simple
STEPHEN S. COHEN
Sir, – Rabbi Simcha Avraham
Halevi (“Hassidic rabbi calls for equality in Torah study,” July 9) makes an
innovative suggestion that should inspire the country’s education authorities.
He suggests that in exchange for yeshiva students doing army or national
service, all youth be given a Torah education.
This may appear
far-fetched to the secular, but it is not. We live in the land of the Bible,
which is our credo for settling this land, and it follows that all Jewish youth
should have a deep understanding of what Judaism is all about. This can only be
achieved by school education and inculcation through the curriculum established
by the Education Ministry.
This may not lead to all our children becoming
religious, but it should give them an excellent idea of what religion provides
in rounding off their education and eliminating existing prejudice between the
religious and nonreligious.
Sir, – Regardless of
the various views as to the drafting of haredim and Arabs, the application of
the term “draft-dodger” to those who do not serve is incorrect.
to all dictionary definitions, draft-dodger refers to one who is by law subject
to conscription and avoids this by any means. Haredim and Arabs are legally
exempted from such service.
Sir, – The situation
of the haredim in facing the Israeli public is almost a clone of Israel’s
situation in facing the international community.
Any “bad” move by Israel
is blown out of proportion, and negative items are a mainstay of the
international media. Likewise, the media are full of antiharedi items and
opinion pieces (the vast majority by irreligious
Journalists beware! The sideeffect of your ranting and
raving against the haredim will inevitably cause acts of violence against them.
This will be your fault because you can prevent it.
As the saying goes,
life and death are in the tip of the pen.
The rabbinic “sages” who dictate haredi policy are calling for the temporary
cancellation of the “three-four week summer break between yeshiva semesters
because of the threat to Torah study” posed by new legislation to draft haredi
youth (“United Torah Judaism, Shas angered by Likud approval of Plesner
recommendations,” July 9).
This annual summer vacation is in addition to
three weeks off for Succot and another three weeks for Pessah, amounting to an
annual 10 weeks off a year for these young men who basically do...
But what is really galling is the haredi claim, in the words of
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, that “We are surrounded by those who hate us, Iran,
Hezbollah... the youth of Israel exist only in the merit of the Torah.” Based on
such logic we should be cowering in our shelters during the 10 weeks when we are
bereft of the vital protection haredi youth provide.
Sir, – Rabbi Ovadia Yosef wants yeshivot to cancel summer vacation so students
can continue to learn Torah in response to the move to draft them.
second! Yeshivot give summers off? If no one is learning Torah, who’s protecting
our tiny state? I know IDF soldiers go on leave every now and then, but the army
doesn’t go on vacation for the summer! \
Sir, – One of the
most interesting phenomena that have occurred as a result of the movement to
make everyone serve the country is the emergence of a group from the Arab
population that really wants to serve.
Perhaps many of them have realized
that their leadership has betrayed them and serves foreign interests, and is not
interested at all in becoming integrated into the economic life of Israel or
creating a federation that would make real growth possible.
If more of
the Arab sector serves in the army or does real community service, these
citizens will become the new leaders for their ethnic group. They will tell the
old leadership to go and will create the population that will truly live
together, work together and respect each other.
Sir, – Proponents of a revision to the Tal Law argue that the responsibility for
the nation’s defense through mandatory service in the military must be shared
equally by all citizens, including the ultra-Orthodox.
How I wish these
reformers really meant what they say! The one population they always exclude
from their “all must serve” mantra is Israelis with disabilities.
exempts people with disabilities from mandatory service.
By absolving the
disabled of the obligation to share in the country’s defense, it reinforces
their marginalization, as well as the notion that people with disabilities are
helpless, non-contributing burdens on society.
Not long ago, Education
Minister Gideon Sa’ar demonstrated how ingrained this condescending view is in
the government when he said in reference to people with disabilities: “Society
is judged according to the way it treats its weakest links.” I reject Sa’ar’s
characterization and its dogmatic equation of disability with
The IDF does offer people with disabilities the option of
voluntary enlistment and assigns them to meaningful jobs – even sensitive jobs
requiring the handling of classified information. However, voluntary enlistment
is far from satisfactory. It is a patronizing alternative. If the IDF is
prepared to assign people with disabilities to substantive roles as volunteers,
why not make their service mandatory? Given the dangers facing Israel, military
service and the sacrifice it demands should not be a matter of personal
preference for anyone.
The government and the Knesset must begin to treat
people with disabilities as human resources with the potential to contribute
their fair share to the national security. Compulsory military service will
greatly reduce the stigma attached to disability and, by raising employer
expectations of the abilities of the disabled, will enhance their future
opportunities in the labor market and speed their integration into