News / Middle East

Israeli Cabinet Approves Ultra-Orthodox Conscription Law

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past a street poster in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, inviting the public to a protest against government plans to draw more ultra-Orthodox men into the conscript army, June 3, 2013.
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past a street poster in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, inviting the public to a protest against government plans to draw more ultra-Orthodox men into the conscript army, June 3, 2013.
Reuters
Israel's cabinet approved a draft law on Sunday to abolish wholesale exemptions from military duty granted to Jewish seminary students, stoking ultra-Orthodox anger over the break with tradition.

Many Israelis have long bridled over state privileges handed to the conservative believers or "Haredim" - a Hebrew term meaning "those who tremble before God".

The debate heated up when elections in January saw strong performances for two parties who campaigned against the exemptions and created the first cabinet in a decade without ultra-Orthodox members.

Most Israeli men and women are called up for military service for up to three years when they turn 18, and often see active service in the occupied West Bank and other flash points.

But ultra-Orthodox men studying in seminaries, religious women and Arab citizens of Israel have been exempted since the Jewish state was formed in 1948.

Under the proposed law, only 1,800 of those students, designated ``outstanding biblical scholars'', would get an exemption, out of the estimated 8,000 who become eligible for the draft every year.

"The government's abuse of the haredi minority verges on persecution and cruelty," Meir Porush, an ultra-Orthodox legislator from the opposition United Torah Judaism party, said about the cabinet's decision.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis say the study of the holy scriptures is a foundation of Jewish life and scholars have a right to devote themselves full time to the task.

"This is a stain on the State of Israel, which has become the only country in the world to determine that studying the Scriptures is not legitimate,'' another United Torah Judaism legislator, Moshe Gafni, told reporters.

Protests

Changing the so-called secular-religious status quo in Israel has carried significant political risk in the past for its coalition governments, which have often relied on the support of ultra-Orthodox partners.

Two months ago, some 30,000 Haredim in traditional black garb rallied to rabbis's calls against conscription reform and protested outside a military recruitment centre in Jerusalem.

But while leaders of the Haredim community have pledged more mass demonstrations against the legislation, an ultra-Orthodox backlash currently poses little danger to the government's survival, given its composition.

Hoping to avoid any immediate confrontation, the government agreed to delay any sanctions against draft-dodgers by imposing a four-year interim period in which the military will encourage young Bible scholars to enlist.

"We will make this change gradually through consideration for the special needs of the ultra-Orthodox community," Netanyahu said in public remarks at the cabinet meeting, where ministers voted 14-0, with four abstentions, to approve the proposed law.

Some 3,500 Haredim already serve in the military, and a recent study by the Economy Ministry found that 70 percent of ultra-Orthodox soldiers entered the workforce after they completed their service. By contrast, only 45 percent of all Haredi men were employed, according to the central bank.

Haredim make up 10 percent of Israel's eight million population and they are expanding rapidly, with families of 10 children not uncommon.

The draft legislation, which will be brought to parliament for ratification, would be implemented fully in four years' time.

You May Like

Photogallery Kyiv: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Weeki
X
August 29, 2014 2:18 AM
The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid