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An Dramatic judgment of the supreme Court: Yeshiva students must be drafted

An expanded panel of 9 judges in the High Court of Justice ruled today (Tuesday) that the state is obligated to recruit yeshiva students who were exempted from military service in justification of their ‘religious belief in learning’ in the absence of a draft law that regulates their status, and a situation of severe inequality that prevails in the population. Accordingly, the High Court of Justice ruled that the state must stop transferring funds to Yeshivas in which recruitment obligators are taught – which number reaches almost 50,000, according to the army’s data in recent years.

The ruling constitutes another significant step in the saga of the Haredi recruitment question, which began about 40 years ago during the days of the Begin government. About 20 years ago, the Tal Law was passed, which was supposed to regulate the status of Haredim who do not enlist, but which was rejected by the High Court because of the inherent inequality within it in 2012. Since then, the Israeli governments have been running for a decade on fuel fumes and failed attempts to create a new law and outline, while the percentage of beneficiaries exempting upon Torah learning among each recruitment cycle is increasing. In the current government, the government initially thought of passing a Basic Law: The study of the Torah, or a draft law that would grant a more sweeping exemption – but these attempts had to wait for the attempt to pass the legal reform. With the outbreak of the war in October 2023, the issue of drafting the ultra-Orthodox became a burning issue in society and is politically sensitive, and the High Court of Justice ruling last March – to stop funding the yeshiva because of the lack of a regulated law within the framework of interim orders – brought the end closer. In the last month, the coalition applied a continuous act to the draft law that Gantz tried to pass in the framework of the previous government, but this did not convince the High Court of Justice, which today turned the orders into a complete ruling.

“Failure to enforce the provisions of the Security Service Law creates severe discrimination between those who are required to serve and those who are not taking steps to recruitment. These days, in the midst of a difficult war, inequality is burdened with a stronger burden than ever – and requires the promotion of a sustainable solution to this issue,” Acting Supreme Court President Uzi Fogelman wrote in the ruling signed by the other judges. The consensus in the case law is not particularly surprising – since in the absence of law, activists and conservatives alike will find it difficult to rule differently.

The ruling will undoubtedly have many political and social consequences. For the Haredim, this is a significant crossroads: Politically, it is difficult to see how the ultra-Orthodox parties will succeed in staying in the coalition when the yeshiva’s are not receiving funding and the recruitment of ultra-Orthodox Jews is forced; and socially, the ultra-Orthodox society will have to decide whether to move toward compromise and reconciliation with the verdict, or fight against it to the fullest extent.

Spirits of unity were heard by some politicians, even from the opposition: “My ultra-Orthodox brothers,” Benny Gantz said, “it is not too late to reach agreements that will serve the country and bring it to Israeli service. The service is both a security need and a moral obligation, not in place of the Torah world, but so that we can continue to exist in the state of all of us – haredim, Arabs, secular people and all parts of society, together. It is time for a broad-based Israeli service outline.”

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