Bennett: 32% of grade 1 students are haredim, Israel will not survive without their integration

Shas leader Deri: Yeshiva students more important than soldiers.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
As the Knesset was set to open its winter session on Monday, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett was uncompromising with regard to the Knesset passing reforms for the greater equalization of state burdens across Israeli society.
“We will not give up on the issue of equalizing the burden’s of the state,” the Bayit Yehudi chairman told Army Radio. “We are determined to move forward with reforms for this purpose,” Bennett said. “Everyone should be aware that 32 percent of firstgrade students in Israel are haredim. The state will not be able to survive for long if these children are not integrated into society.”
Several monumental bills that can make or break the coalition are on the Knesset’s docket for its challenging winter session.
Haredi enlistment is one of the issues lawmakers are expected to bring to a vote in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Monday morning on Army Radio, Shas leader Arye Deri said he believes that enlistment- aged men who choose to study in yeshiva instead of serving in the army should be allowed to do so, and that they are even more important than those who choose to become IDF soldiers.
Deri also noted that in the wake of the death of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas members are uniting and working together in cooperation.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said last month that integrating haredi men into army service must be done gradually and without coercion.
Ya’alon has consistently opposed imposing quotas on the number of ultra-Orthodox men able to gain military service exemptions.
“The correct way to ensure the integration of haredim into the IDF and Israeli society is a gradual process through special army courses and in the civilian service,” Ya’alon said.
Ya’alon’s statements run counter to the proposals of a government bill drafted by the Peri Committee on equalizing the burden, which would mandate obligatory military or civilian service for haredi men, with those refusing to serve subject to criminal prosecution and imprisonment – as is currently the case for all other Jewish citizens.
Jeremy Sharon and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.