An ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jewish man walks past Israeli soldiers of the Netzah Yehuda Haredi infantry battalion during their swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
For the third time in this cycle of the proposed legislation, the High Court of Justice has given the state more time to pass a haredi enlistment law, a draft law for the ultra-Orthodox that is supposed to satisfy everyone – the court, the governing coalition, and the haredim.
Only no such legislation exists.
On Monday the court granted six more months, until July 28, to pass legislation that regulates – like the law that applies the rest of Israeli society – haredi enlistment in the army.
That’s going to be difficult. After elections on April 9, the government will probably, as is usually the case, take its two-month allotted time to form a coalition. That means that when the new government is sworn in at the beginning of June, it will have less than two months to pass that draft law.
Twenty years after the Tal Committee was first authorized (August 22, 1999) to find a compromise and issue recommendations on the special military exemption given to haredim; 16.5 years after the passage of the Tal Law (July 23, 2002); and seven years after the High Court ruled that the law is unconstitutional (February 21, 2012), we still find ourselves needing to pass acceptable legislation.
Many proposals have been put forth over the years from non-partisan institutes and organizations. Some compromise has to work. But none have.
The draft law that the court extended had received the blessing of the army and was approved by the Knesset. But last-minute political maneuverings led to a failure to pass the needed legislation, and it was one of the ostensible reasons that the government fell. This is not the first time this has occurred.
The fault lies with the High Court of Justice that continues to grant extensions. We urge the court to forgo any more postponements and let the country move on. With no more deadlines, the court’s previous ruling would go into effect, and all haredi men of military age would automatically be obligated to enlist.
What will inevitably follow will be more and larger street demonstrations, which usually occur at Nordau Square at the corner of Jaffa and Sarei Yisrael streets, a block from the Central Bus Station.
If they want to demonstrate, we hope the haredim ask and are granted a permit to do so at a designated location, and not in the middle of the capital’s main street that permits them to hijack the city and its bus and rail lines.
When they refuse to disperse, the police will use spray cannons to shoot foul-smelling gunk at the protesters, a fragrance straight from the sewers that lingers in the air for days. And those who refuse to enlist – those who show contempt for the rule of law – will be arrested.
Equality in the burden of service is an extremely important public issue. It is a question of sharing – to some extent, to some degree, to some percentage – toward the betterment of this State of Israel, contributing to the great Jewish cause being created now 70 years on.
It’s not a question of sitting and learning Torah all day, and we should stop obscuring the issue. Jews around the world learn Torah and also contribute to the general population. A balance must be struck between two important values: equality and Torah study. Exemptions that are already given to those who really learn Torah all day symbolize the value of Torah study as an expression of the Jewish character of the State of Israel. That should continue. Those who really learn should be allowed to. The Jewish state cannot go around arresting people for studying the texts that are the foundation of our national identity.
But that doesn’t mean that its either Torah study or the IDF. If army service is too much, there’s national service – doing something to serve the nation whose benefits are enjoyed by all. Put on a blue smock and serve in a hospital; go help out in an absorption center. Israelis need you and want you to be a part of society.
We support a draft law that applies to all because it applies to all. It is a matter of solidarity and a shared destiny among the various sectors of Israeli society. We are all in this together. That’s what a democratic country is built on.
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