Israel Closer to Ultra-Orthodox Conscription
Examining the implications of the fall of the Tal Law
On May 29, the Israeli government approved a proposal that would end the controversial exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the military. The Tal Law, as it was dubbed, was deemed unconstitutional by the Israeli Supreme Court last year. For ten years, the law provided Haredim with a military deferment until they turned 22 years old, and then during a “decision year” they chose whether to work for a year in civilian national service or enlist for 16 months. Then Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch explained, however, that the law had failed to recruit a significant number of Haredim to the military and that it was improperly enforced.
When Haredim learned of the law’s doubtful future, a record number volunteered to enlist as to prevent a mandatory conscription. But it seems their efforts faltered. The new proposal replacing the Tal Law will require all Haredim to register for enlistment at 17, but if they’re studying Torah they can still put off the army until they turn 21 years old. If the bill makes it all the way to law, a few problems may arise.
Problem 1: Many Haredi men would rather “fill the prisons” than enlist, said Pini Rozenberg, spokesman for the Haredi community. So while some might be ready to compromise, about 20,000 others took to the street to protest on May 17.
Problem 2: In those additional years between 17 and 21, Haredi men could get married—in which case the IDF would have to pay them additional salary to support their families, which would create a financial burden on the military.
It’s still uncertain whether this proposal will solve all the problems that the Tal Law initially created, but for now, the law’s impending demise is aggravating an already rocky relationship between secular and ultra-Orthodox Israelis.