Bill would make it harder for women to avoid draft

Hasson's bill would require draft exemptees study for at least two of the last three years in a religious educational establishment.

female IDF officers 248.88 (photo credit: Yaakov Katz )
female IDF officers 248.88
(photo credit: Yaakov Katz )
The hundreds of young women who avoid the draft every year by falsely claiming that they are religious and thus exempt from IDF service may soon find it a bit harder to take the easy way out, if a bill sponsored by MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) becomes law. Hasson, the head of the Knesset Lobby against Draft Evasion, will bring his bill to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation Sunday in the hopes of garnering coalition support for the measure. Under the current guidelines, all a young woman must do is report to a judge or a rabbinic court official and sign a statement that she is religious and therefore cannot morally serve in the IDF, as well as that she keeps kosher both in and out of the house and does not travel on Shabbat. The women are exempt from all national service, including the civilian National Service Corps. Hasson's bill would require that applicants state that in addition to being religious, they studied for at least two of the last three years in a religious educational establishment, and that they provide documentation to back up the statements. Even in those cases in which the exemption-requester did not study in a religious institution, Hasson proposes that she be granted an interview with a draft board official in which she can try to convince him that there are special conditions that justify her being exempted. "In doing so, it will be possible to reach the appropriate balance in the law, and to reduce as much as possible the phenomenon of draft evasion under the excuse of religious observance," Hasson said on Thursday. "We will not allow a situation in which a young woman who is interested in receiving an exemption from military service states that she is religious, and keeps kosher and Shabbat, and then goes to tan on the beach in a bikini." He hopes that "the coalition, which takes pride in terms like 'the national camp,' won't stand in the way of this proposal. In any case, this is a fateful test for its members." Hasson began working on the bill after the IDF's Manpower Directorate recently presented data indicating that a majority of women slated for the draft present themselves as exempt due to religion, and that almost 10 percent of those were later proven to have lied. The IDF recently cooperated with private investigators to tail women who claim to be religious, and some 80 young women were caught acting in ways that seemed to contradict their signed statements that they were religious. In another instance, the IDF said that in the past year, around 570 women were ordered back to draft boards, admitted that their signed statements were false, and were subsequently drafted. The phenomenon of young women claiming religious beliefs as a reason not to be drafted is so common that a number of Israel's glitterati have been exposed as using the excuse despite public behavior that would indicate otherwise. Among those are singers Zehava Ben (whose sister, also a singer, performed full mandatory service), Sarit Hadad and Maya Abuskila - known for her low-cut clothes revealing more breast than not. Models winner Victoria Katzman, who as part of the reality program posed on national television wearing skimpy bathing suits, declared herself afterwards to be religious. Less than a month later Katzman appeared in a nationwide campaign for an underwear chain.