Defense Ministry gives full military service exemption to 633 haredim

State continues to exempt haredi men, despite expiration of Tal Law; 1,800 more expected to receive exemption in December.

By
November 17, 2013 22:51
2 minute read.
Haredi man and IDF soldiers walk in Jerusalem

Haredi and IDF soldier Tal law Jerusalem 390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)

 
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The Defense Ministry has given full military service exemptions to 633 haredi men who received enlistment orders since the expiration of the “Tal Law,” which systematically allowed such exemptions, on August 1, 2012.

The Attorney-General’s Office notified the High Court of Justice of this number on November 11, and also said that the Defense Ministry was “considering” the exemption of another 1,803 yeshiva students scheduled for enlistment on December 22.

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This new round of mass exemptions follows the ministry’s cancellation of military service orders for just over 608 haredi men back in July.

Since the expiration of the Tal law, haredi yeshiva students no longer have a legal avenue for the indefinite postponement of military service that they previously enjoyed, meaning that the law obligates them, like all other eligible men of military age, to enlist in the IDF.

The new mass exemptions have raised accusations from several legal rights groups, including the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group, that conscription orders sent to haredi men after the law lapsed were merely a sop designed to get the High Court to delay ruling on the petitions submitted to it on the issue.

Hiddush Director and Reform Rabbi Uri Regev said that he was “amazed” at the government’s indecisiveness.

“Yeshiva students can relax,” he said. “It’s becoming clear that the State of Israel sent them conscription orders merely to deceive the High Court of Justice, and it doesn’t intend to draft even one yeshiva student against his will.”

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Several legal activism groups submitted petitions to the court after the law expired, demanding the immediate conscription of yeshiva students of military age in order that the state, and more specifically the Defense Ministry, would be in compliance with the law.

At the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, yeshiva students of the 1994 and 1995 annual cohorts received hundreds of conscription orders. Many of them presented themselves at IDF recruiting offices, but refused to sign forms on instruction from leading haredi rabbis.

It was believed that before the conscription date, the government would pass legislation which it had been drawing up on the issue, and that a new law would retroactively annul the conscription orders. And because the Defense Ministry had instructed the IDF to issue the conscription orders, the High Court delayed hearing the petitions demanding immediate conscription of haredi men.

But although more than a year has passed since the Tal law expired, new legislation on haredi enlistment has yet to be passed.

According to Hiddush, 578 yeshiva students were scheduled for conscription on November 21, and another 55 for December 4, but these potential conscripts have now been exempted by the Defense Ministry.

The 1,803 scheduled for conscription on December 22 are very unlikely to be conscripted, given that the government bill is still being debated in committee and is not expected to be passed before the enlistment date.

Attorney Gilad Barnea, who is working on the petition for Hiddush, accused the Defense Minister and the government of “continuing to violate their obligation to draft anyone who the law stipulates must perform military service,” as well as violating the principles of equality.

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