Dozens gather at Tal Law protest camp

Demonstration continues at central train station against law that gives yeshiva students different conditions for army service.

Protest against Tal Law 390 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Protest against Tal Law 390
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Dozens of protesters gathered Saturday night at the Arlozorof train station in Tel Aviv to demonstrate against the Tal Law.
Executive Director of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization Gil Simenhois visited the the mock military "Camp Sucker" to show solidarity with the struggle.
The Tal Law affords those studying full-time in a yeshiva the option of deferring their military service until they are 22. Once they reach that age, they can perform a year of vocational training, and then decide whether to join the army for a minimum of 16 months followed by annual reserve duty, or to perform a year of civilian service. After that point, they are legally free to join the work force.
The encampment is somewhat reminiscent of the protest tents set up over the summer across the country, with booths set up by different NGOs, activists milling around talking to journalists, and the occasional passing car honking its approval or disdain. Activists said Thursday that the encampment would remain open until Sunday morning, and that an assortment of public figures would make appearances.
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan paid a visit to the encampment on Friday, and told protesters that he identifies with and supports their "important struggle." Dagan signed a petition to cancel the law.
After sources said Thursday that the law will be passed to the Knesset for debate, followed by a vote to determine whether to renew it or not, Dagan stated that MKs should be held accountable for their votes.
"We must mark every MK that supports the law and inform the public which MKs work for the public interest and which do not," he stated.
Israel Beiteinu MK Moshe Matalon and Minister Uzi Landau also made appearances at the camp, saying that  faction chairman Avigdor Lieberman announced that the party would vote against extending the law.
The Tal Law was passed in 2002 as a temporary law and needs to be renewed every five years. It has generated widespread opposition because, although designed to encourage more ultra-Orthodox men to enlist, the rate of haredi enrollment in the IDF or national service remains at approximately 28 percent, compared to the overall overage of just over 50%.
Unless renewed again, it will expire in August this year, but due to a lack of support from coalition partners, Netanyahu decided to defer it to the Knesset for debate and a final vote in the summer.
Jeremy Sharon and Ben Hartman contributed to this report