haredi crowds 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the shadow of the government decision to limit funding for yeshiva students
to five years, the Knesset’s State Control Committee met Monday to discuss
national service and other options for those with draft exemptions or
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During the meeting, the Civilian and National Service
Authority presented data indicating an increase in the number of volunteers for
service, both in the haredi and Arab sectors. The hearing addressed a number of
the issues listed by State Comptroller Michael Lindenstrauss in a recent report
on the types of service.
In response to Lindenstrauss’s criticism,
national service undertaken from home will no longer be considered valid, and
further restrictions have been put in place to limit nepotism. MK Uri Orbach
(Habayit Hayehudi), who took over leadership of the hearing from committee
chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima), expressed satisfaction that the majority of
problems detailed in the report had been corrected.
director of the authority, told MKs that the number of participants in both
service tracks had steadily risen throughout the past five years. The
across-the-board increases, he said, were particularly notable in the Arab
sector, where the leadership has opposed the authority’s projects. He
added that one of the sector’s service coordinators had been badly beaten and
required hospitalization. Arab volunteers, he related, are called
traitors in the street and are shunned although their service is carried out
within the Arab sector.
Nevertheless, he said, the number of Arab
volunteers had risen over the past five years from 240 to 1,459.
is constantly additional demand, and the people themselves are voting with their
feet in favor of civil service,” he said.
The committee debate heated up
when the subject switched to haredi participation within the framework of the
Tal Law. Jerbi told the MKs that 1,552 haredi men currently perform civilian
service, whereas less than two years ago, in February 2009, there were a mere
570. The target group for the Tal program, he explained, were men who had
received draft deferments for at least four years of Torah study and were either
single and over the age of 26, or over the age of 22 with at least one
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) responded that “as over half of those
who are qualified for the draft do not carry their share of the burden, these
numbers are still a drop in the sea.”
MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) snapped back
that the details only served to prove that the “media” had been wrong, and that
there were high levels of motivation for national and even military service
among haredi men.
“The army doesn’t want the haredim,” complained
Ze’ev. “The Finance Ministry restricts them to specific units, and they
could have doubled the current ‘Blue Dawn’ project to integrate haredim in the
IAF from 1,400 to 3,000. They need to take down more barriers and open more
places and more tracks for haredi volunteers.”
According to Hiddush, an
organization that tracks matters of religion and state, there are approximately
62,500 haredi men of draft age who currently receive IDF deferments, as opposed
to 45,500 five years ago.
“IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi
Ashkenazi has warned about the lack of manpower in the IDF and called for the
draft of the yeshiva students,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, director-general of
Hiddush, in advance of the hearing. “But instead of making an effort to draft
haredim, the government completely gives up on them.”
equality of service was “possible for all sectors, and I am not willing to
accept the statement that the army is not capable of absorbing the haredim. The
nation’s army must know how to deal with the nation.”