Ultra-Orthodox Jews take part in a mass prayer vigil in Jerusalem on March 2, 2014 in protest at plans to conscript young ultra-Orthodox men for Israeli military or civilian service. (DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel’s Knesset passed a highly controversial bill today which requires army service from many ultra-Orthodox citizens who would have previously been exempt if they pursued religious studies, the New York Times reports. The new legislation sets annual quotas for drafting yeshiva students for military or national service, and mandates criminal penalties against draft evaders. However, the law doesn’t entail complete Haredi conscription, instead calling for a gradual annual increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox 18-year-olds drafted, and still allowing for small numbers of exemptions until 2017.

With the opposition boycotting the vote, the 120-seat Knesset was nearly empty during the plenary proceedings and the bill was ushered in with 67 votes in favor and only one vote against. An amendment dealing with civilian national service also passed.

Ever since the Tal Law, which exempted yeshiva students from army service, was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Israel in May 2012, there has been mounting public opposition to the proposed conscription legislation. More recently, things heated up when the Israeli government froze funds to yeshivas to protest Haredi deferrals of IDF service last month. Rallies against the bill brought out thousands of protestors in both Jerusalem and New York City.

The opposition will likely petition the Supreme Court to nullify the law.

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