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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid