Protesters demand army or national service for all

Rally outside prime minister's house marks end of 3-day march protesting the unequal distribution of military service burden in Israeli society.

Noam Schalit at equal IDF service rally 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Noam Schalit at equal IDF service rally 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Hundreds attended a protest across from the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem Thursday evening marking the end of a three-day march by the Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden.
The marchers, who embarked on their journey from the Tel Hashomer military induction center bearing stretchers, were protesting the unequal distribution of the military service burden in Israeli society.
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The forum amalgamates some 60 social organizations and religious and student groups.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni was one of the many speakers who addressed the audience, composed primarily of young people, and stressed the “very important value of sharing the burden, which happens through the military induction center.”
Aran Sopher, a 17-year-old from the Be’er Tuvia regional council, came to the capital with other members of the Bnei Moshavim youth movement.
As a hopeful candidate for the elite paratrooper reconnaissance unit, Sopher was firm in his belief that everyone should serve – and if Arabs or haredim chose to take part in civilian service instead, he said, that should be for the same three-year period as the army.
Another protester who stood out from the rest of the crowd with his black kippa, full beard, side-locks and hassidic garb was Haim Meir Vizhnitzer, who served in the first cycle of Nahal Haredi in 1999 and was among the founders of the forum.
“We are in a deadlock,” he said of the situation in which the political power of the haredi parties keeps the government from forcing haredim to serve in the military or other tracks.
Vizhnitzer said the protest was not anti-haredi, “nor need it be such. It is in the best interest of haredi society that more haredim serve in the army” – which, he said, was incomparably more important and significant than the abbreviated civilian service offered to them.