The call for equality in the burden of national service took center stage
Monday, as new MKs, including Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, made their first
speeches in the plenum.
“We are in a crisis. The thing that is broken,
that is smashed into pieces, is the ability of the government to act as
sovereign when facing the different groups that make up the population,” Lapid
According to the Yesh Atid leader, the government “no longer knows
how to say...
there are rules and there are laws, and the apply to
Lapid referred to “price tag” criminals and Arab villages
“that the police does not dare enter” as well as the ultra- Orthodox, saying
that the situation in Israel deteriorated from democracy to anarchy, and “the
rule of minorities over the majority.”
Referring to comments by Shas and
United Torah Judaism MKs, Lapid said “we cannot be afraid of the fact that the
discussion of equality in the burden once again brought voices threatening a
“There won’t be a civil war.
Ten percent of the
population cannot threaten the other 90% with civil war. A civilized society
does not deal in threats, and if this house does not act because of threats, it
is emptying the idea of democracy of all its values,” Lapid stated, adding that
it is the Knesset’s job to overcome fears and tensions, and bring solutions to
problems tearing Israeli society apart.
“Is it too much to imagine a
country in which every haredi child learns English and every secular child knows
what a page of Talmud looks like?” he asked. “I believe it is not. I believe in
Israel and I believe in Israelis, in our ability to start over and create a
model society that we can be proud of.”
Each new MK’s speech was followed
by congratulations by a veteran MK.
UTJ MK Menahem Eliezer Moses spoke of
Lapid’s family history, specifically mentioning that his grandfather was a rabbi
in Hungary and a Viznitz Hassid who came from a family of 18 children.
such, Moses added, he does not understand how Lapid, who did not stay in the
plenum to hear the UTJ lawmaker speak, could oppose Torah study or government
aid to large families.
“Do you really think you could force 100,000
yeshiva students to serve in the army?” Moses asked. “Where is there land to
build all the prisons for them? There isn’t even enough land for homes for young
couples.” The UTJ MK also pointed out that government funding for yeshiva
students is lower than the amount spent on prisoners.
In addition, Moses
said that Lapid should not discount the possibility of “a tear in the nation,”
one of the euphemisms UTJ and Shas MKs have used for civil war, because while
haredim may comprise 10% of the adult population, they make up nearly one-third
of the population of young children in Israel.
Several other MKs,
addressing the plenum for the first time, mentioned the issue of haredi
“I believe with all my heart in the importance of the world
of Torah and in the value of learning Torah, but I believe no less that our
nation has many needs and we cannot carry them alone,” said MK Elazar Stern (The
Tzipi Livni Party). “The time has come for all of us to serve the country in
which we all live.”
Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev said that as the son of former
IDF chief of staff Haim Bar-Lev, he cannot stand by while only a small group
serves its duty to the state, but that the real problem is the burden of
diplomatic paralysis and social gaps.
MK Itzik Shmuli, also of Labor, did
not just talk about equality in the burden, he acted – submitting a bill meant
to symbolically move the country in that direction.
Shmuli’s bill is an
amendment to the 1953 Education Law, which would add teaching the value of
serving the country in the army, national or civilian service, or volunteering,
to the list of goals of government- funded education.
The legislation is
almost identical to a proposal by then-MK Zevulun Orlev (Bayit Yehudi) from
“We cannot educate for social justice without teaching to share the
burden,” Shmuli explained. “In the next Knesset, I plan to promote issues of
teaching values in schools, because that is one of the important ways to shrink
Meanwhile, the Knesset prepared to work without a coalition
in the coming weeks, with the temporary House Committee, led by MK Ze’ev Elkin
(Likud Beytenu) voting that MKs Ophir Akunis (Likud Beytenu) and Yitzhak Vaknin
(Shas) serve as temporary deputies to acting Knesset Speaker Binyamin
Ben-Eliezer (Labor). Both MKs were deputy Knesset speakers in the last
The temporary House Committee must also choose temporary
chairmen for the Finance and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees, assign
offices to MKs and decide when the Knesset goes on Passover vacation.
addition, Ben-Eliezer approved a request from Akunis to mark the anniversary of
former prime minister Menachem Begin’s death on Wednesday.