Bill: Girls who lie about religiosity must serve

Knesset panel drafts law that would force those found to have lied about their observance to dodge IDF service to enlist.

haredi girls 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haredi girls 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Girls who are found to have lied about their religious observance in order to avoid IDF service will be forced to enlist, according to a bill prepared for its second and third (final) readings by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.
Currently, there are three conditions for girls to be exempted from military service for religious reasons: keeping kashrut, not traveling on Saturdays and a “religious lifestyle” in their home. Most students in religious girls’ schools receive an automatic exemption.
Those who did not attend Orthodox schools in Israel, must testify before a committee in their local rabbinate.
The new government-proposed bill, which will be brought to the plenum for its final votes in the coming weeks, demands that the girls continue to live the lifestyle they declared when they received the exemption.
If the IDF catches the girl violating her commitment, it may put her on trial, and she can defend herself. Alternatively, if a girl stops being religious, she may report the fact to the IDF.
According to the IDF’s Manpower Directorate, hundreds more girls will join the IDF, should the bill pass.
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni spoke out against the legislation, saying it “reeks of underhanded opportunism” and is unacceptable.
He called for the bill to not apply to national-religious and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) girls.
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) chaired the meeting on the bill, and pointed out that the bill only changes the situation of girls who lie about their religious status, or stop being observant after receiving an exemption. Therefore, it does not apply to haredi girls.
Gafni responded that he does not think women should have to enlist in the IDF at all, but he does not want to help liars, either. He explained he simply wants to ensure religious women are not forced into military service.
The UTJ member of Knesset also took issue with the members of the rabbinate committees and joked that a Hassidic haredi committee may say that a Lithuanian haredi woman is not sufficiently religious because she would walk next to her husband in public.
Elkin, in response, said he is trying to hold a serious discussion, and Gafni apologized for “trying to lighten the mood.”
The argument between Gafni and Elkin continued for nearly an hour, in what appeared to be an attempt by Gafni to filibuster the committee vote.
After requesting permission to speak, MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) suggested Elkin and Gafni seek couple’s therapy.
Cabel said Gafni is “putting on a show,” but also voiced opposition to the bill, because, in his opinion, not one person will be put on trial after it passes.
Cabel grew up in a national-religious family and attended a yeshiva before choosing to become secular, and said that “someone like me should have to go to the army.”
However, he said, the phrase “religious lifestyle” is too vague, and if he were a girl, he probably could have been exempt from service, Cabel pointed out.