Haredi and IDF soldier Tal law Jerusalem 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Tov, a moderate haredi political movement, has filed a request with the High
Court of Justice to be included as a respondent to a petition filed by Yair
Lapid and his Yesh Atid party against a government decision allowing the
Civilian Service Directorate to enlist 1,300 haredi men into its national
service program by August 2013.
The Tov movement, which says it
represents members of the haredi community who are disillusioned with the
community’s traditional political leadership, heavily criticized the petition as
politically motivated and not constructive.
Although it is not running in
the upcoming general election, Tov has several representatives on municipal
councils around the country, including in Beit Shemesh, Betar Illit and Modi’in
Illit, and will field candidates for municipal elections at the end of
Tov director Hanoch Verdinger said that it was crucial to allow
continued recruitment for civilian service as part of efforts to integrate
haredi men into the workforce.
“This petition will only have a negative
effect; nothing positive can come out of it,” Verdinger said. “They wouldn’t
have filed this populist petition if it wasn’t election season, but if they want
to prevent haredim from joining the workforce, then this is a way to do
According to statistics from the Civilian Service Directorate,
approximately 85 percent of graduates from the program have integrated into the
Verdinger also condemned haredi politicians from ultra-
Orthodox parties United Torah Judaism and Shas for abandoning their constituent
voters over the issue.
“It might as well be happening in Zimbabwe for all
the attention they’ve paid to it,” he said, explaining that Tov was seeking to
step into the vacuum and “provide political support and representation for
members of the haredi community wishing to join the workforce and live a more
If Tov’s request to join the state as a respondent to
the petition is accepted, it would allow the High Court to approach the
movement’s representatives for evidence and testimony when deliberating on the
The court is currently waiting for the state’s response to the
petition, which must be presented by next Thursday.
Ofer Shelah, who is
in the sixth slot on the Yesh Atid electoral list, defended the petition, saying
that following the expiration in August of the “Tal Law,” which had allowed
fulltime yeshiva students to indefinitely defer their military service,
recruitment for the civilian service was not legally mandated and that the state
must operate according to the law.
Shelah also criticized the civilian
service program itself, saying that it is not comparable to military service,
does not provide tangible benefits for the state and is expensive, since many of
the participants are married with children, for whom they receive significant
monetary disbursements as part of their monthly income from the
“The civilian service program as it is today is very far
from what we in Yesh Atid envision,” Shelah said.
The civilian service
program was mandated by the Tal Law in 2002, and established in 2007 as a form
of national service for haredi men. The program, entailing 40 hours a week of
service for a year, places volunteers in various government departments and
bodies in the fields of welfare, public security, public health, immigration
absorption and environmental protection.
Recruitment for the program was
frozen when the Tal Law expired, but the directorate requested a special
government decision allowing it to recruit new volunteers to replace the
shortfall resulting from the departure of the participants who complete their
service every month.
In August, the number of active civilian service
personnel stood at 2,026, but since recruits join, and thus complete, the
service on a monthly basis, numbers have declined to approximately 1,450 as of
The Civilian Service Directorate stated before last week’s
decision that dozens of haredi men who applied to the program since August had
to be turned away each month because of the recruitment freeze.
decision allows recruitment to recommence, although the directorate will not be
allowed to exceed the number of recruits who were serving on July 31 until after
new legislation is drawn up.
Therefore, although enlisting 1,300 men
would in theory bring the number to over 2,700, the turnover rate of those
leaving the service would ensure that the number of people actually serving at
one time remains at the level it was at as of July 31.