UTJ rejects gov't compromise on female draft-dodger law

UTJ rejects govt compro

United Torah Judaism rejected Monday an attempt at compromise on the issue of the induction of religious women into the IDF. "The prime minister will have to offer us a different compromise if he wants to change the status quo," said MK Menachem Eliezer Moses (UTJ). On Sunday the cabinet approved the appointment of a representative from the Chief Rabbinate who would work in coordination with a Defense Ministry official to hear appeals by women attempting to be exempted from military service on religious grounds. The two would be responsible for determining whether the woman was truly motivated by religious faith or whether she was simply a draft dodger. This is an attempt to crack down on women who use the claim of religious observance as a way of skirting two years of mandatory military service. By law, religious women can be exempted from military service if they declare that their religious beliefs do not permit them to serve. Many rabbis, both haredi and national-religious, forbid women to serve in the army due to the coed arrangements that compromise their standards of modesty and could lead to sexual interaction. Haredi rabbinic leaders such as the late Rabbi Yeshayahu Karelitz, known as the Hazon Ish, reportedly stated that a woman should die rather than enlist in the IDF. Moses said Monday that the suggested compromise was useless, since it did not give the Chief Rabbinate the final word. "According to the new bill if there is a dispute between the Chief Rabbinate representative and the Defense Ministry representative, the Defense Ministry wins. That strips the rabbi of all powers whatsoever. It creates an absurd situation in which a defense official has more authority to determine a woman's religiosity than a rabbi," he said. Moses said that while the vast majority of haredi and religious women have no problems obtaining exemption from IDF service, women from traditional homes who are not fully Orthodox but nevertheless keep Shabbat as a day of rest, eat kosher food, and have a tradition from home - the three criteria for receiving an exemption - sometimes encountered difficulties. "In one case it was discovered that a woman worked as a waitress on Shabbat and as a result was denied an exemption. But it turned out that she did everything in accordance with Halacha and she truly was religious. Only a rabbi can determine such things," he said. According to data presented to the cabinet by OC Human Resources Maj.-Gen. Avi Zamir at the end of November, 40 percent of military-age women do not serve, 30% due to religious convictions. An undetermined number not included in this 40% perform National Service instead of IDF service.