Knesset haredi enlistment committee holds inaugural meeting

Chairperson Shaked says serving country is a privilege but we also must appreciate those who study Torah.

Sea of haredim 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Sea of haredim 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Shaked Committee on haredi enlistment held its inaugural meeting in the Knesset Thursday, to prepare the government bill for its final vote.
"The topic we're dealing with is important to groups in society, and we have a great responsibility on our shoulders," committee chairwoman Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) said.
The committee, officially known as The Special Committee to Discuss the Bill on Equality in the Burden of Military and Civilian Service and the Work Force and Regulating the Status of Yeshiva Students, is led by Shaked and consists of MKs Meir Porush (UTJ), Ariel Atias (Shas), Omer Bar-Lev (Labor), Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud Beytenu), David Rotem (Likud Beytenu), Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) and Elazar Stern (Hatnua).
"The sovereignty in the State of Israel is based, in my opinion, on Torah, work and defense. Some carry the burden of Torah for many years and rehabilitated the Torah world that was nearly destroyed by the Nazis. What kept the Jewish people alive for 3000 years is Torah, and we must appreciate those who study it," Shaked explained.
Shaked also said that she has an issue with the concept "equality in the burden." First, she said, there isn't really equality; an army cook and a pilot do not do the same service. Second, serving the country is not a burden, but a privilege.
"We can't look for total equality, which is a utopian idea. We need to be smart and gradually integrate the haredim into the workforce and the army, and find solutions that will allow them to maintain their lifestyle while taking part in the defense of the country and the nation and in Torah," she stated.
Shaked also called for an end to "the discourse of shouting" and a start to a "discourse of dialogue and cooperation."
Haredi MKs seemed less enthusiastic about cooperation. UTJ and Shas boycotted the Plesner Committee, the Shaked Committee's predecessor in the the previous Knesset, but are members of the new panel. At the same time, Atias only briefly attended Thursday's meeting and did not speak, and Porush did not show up.
Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, who led the ministerial committee that drafted the haredi enlistment bill, briefly attended the meeting to describe the legislation.
"Does this mean there will be equality in the burden for all citizens?" Rotem asked.
"I know what you're talking about," Peri responded wearily, adding that there are options for Israeli Arabs to do civilian service, but it will not be mandatory.
Researchers from several think tanks, like the Israel Democracy Institute and the Kohelet Policy Forum, criticized many sections of the Peri Bill, but were unable to bring viable alternatives.