Rivlin, haredi moderates, protest leaders meet

Knesset speaker looks for common ground on enlistment of ultra-Orthodox into national service.

Rivlin meets moderate haredi group, Camp Sucker leaders 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Rivlin meets moderate haredi group, Camp Sucker leaders 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin met near the Knesset on Wednesday with representatives of the moderate haredi Tov political movement and of the campaign to enlist haredim into national service.
“Politics has failed,” Rivlin said in reference to the failure of Kadima and the Likud to reach an agreement on new legislation for drafting the ultra-Orthodox into military or civilian service.
“So we are here today to bring everyone together under one tent instead of sitting in separate camps,” Rivlin continued, speaking at the round table conference held in the Tov tent in the Wohl Rose Garden.
“Not everyone can be a leading Torah scholar of the generation,” argued Rivlin in reference to the demand for a ceiling to be placed on the number of yeshiva students who are able to receive exemptions from national service through full-time study.
“But coercion is not desirable either,” the Knesset chairman emphasized. “All sides need to understand that there must be compromise, and for this we need to sit down together.”
Hanoch Verdiger, chairman of Tov, briefly outlined his movement’s proposals for drafting haredim into national service, according to which yeshiva students would be able to defer service until age 23, but would only be able to enter the workforce following the completion of national service.
If a yeshiva student decides not to serve, then he could return to yeshiva but would only be able to join the workforce after he performed national service.
“It’s not possible to change the perspective of a deeply embedded culture through a ruling of the High Court of Justice or a coercive law passed through the Knesset,” Vrediger said. “However, we also understand the frustration of the secular community with those who don’t serve.”
Ariel Deri, director of the Tov movement, said the proposals presented up until now by the various political factions would only worsen the lack of haredim in national service, because the coercive elements of such legislation would alienate the ultra-Orthodox community.
“We wanted to make a new voice heard within Israeli society from the sector of the haredi community that has served in the army and has integrated itself into public life,” Deri said.
Yoav Kish, one of the leaders of the IDF draft reform movement – Camp Sucker – who was in attendance, welcomed the proposals of the Tov movement.
“We are not against haredim, they are our brothers and we need them with us,” Kish said. “We value Torah and Torah study, but these values do not contradict the idea of national service and we need the haredi community to put its shoulder under the stretcher,” a reference to arduous stretcher marches during IDF training.
Kish added that it is not always possible to progress with the full agreement of all parties, and called on the prime minister to continue with efforts “to change the reality so that in another 20 years everyone will be sitting under the same tent together.”
Although the meeting was generally good-natured, members of the reform campaign nevertheless reiterated their stance that the principle of service for all must be applied.
Shahar Ilan of Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel said that “Israeli society is not willing to put up with a sector of society that doesn’t serve and doesn’t work.”
He pointed out that the leaders of the haredi community, in particular the rabbinical leadership, have opposed any reform to the status of yeshiva students.
Ilan said the Tov organization was an exception within the ultra-Orthodox world.
Deri said, however, that the movement is far more representative than is immediately apparent since, he claimed, there are many people within the community who agree with its stance but do not like to express such sentiment publicly.
Boaz Nul, another draftreform leader, said that despite the good intentions of the Tov representatives, a noncoercive approach had been attempted with the Tal Law that he claimed had failed.
Deri strongly rejected Nul’s assertion, pointing to haredi enlistment figures for the IDF and civilian service in 2007, when implementation of the Tal Law began, of just over 300 individuals, as opposed to the almost 2,400 haredim who served in military and civilian service in 2011.