July 24, 2024

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Israel: Ultra-Orthodox to Join Army – Demonstrations Expected – News

Israel: Ultra-Orthodox to Join Army – Demonstrations Expected – News

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that ultra-Orthodox Jews must also do military service after decades of exemption. Journalist Andrea Krogman in Jerusalem knows more about the background.


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Andrea Krogman lives and works as a correspondent for the Catholic News Agency in Jerusalem. His (blog) book “(Un)Holy Things from the Holy Land” was recently published.

SRF News: How does Israel’s High Court justify its decision?

Andrea Krogman: It’s about equal participation in service to the state, in this case to the military. The question is whether the ultra-Orthodox exception represents a hardship for other Israelis, as the court president said, given the months-long war.

It remains to be seen how the court decision will be implemented in practice.

So does conscription now apply without exception in Israel?

At least that’s the court ruling. It remains to be seen how this will be implemented in practice. Because some communities – strict religious Jews – would prefer to avoid military service.

An exception for ultra-Orthodox Jews has been in place since Israel’s founding in 1948. Why were they exempted from conscription?

Initially, there was only a small group of ultra-Orthodox exempted from military service – only about 400 men. People may think they don’t matter. At the time, no one expected the population figures in Israel to grow to at least several tens of thousands of men now.

Exemption from compulsory military service for ultra-Orthodox men expired three months ago. However, Netanyahu’s government has failed to pass legislation guaranteeing relief. The High Court later ordered the removal of state subsidies for ultra-Orthodox men of military age attending religious schools.

The Attorney General also decided that the military was obligated to draft religious students. According to the court, there are 63,000 men. A government coalition collapsed in 2018 over a dispute over a law that would gradually require more strictly religious men to serve as weapons. But there are also ultra-Orthodox men who serve voluntarily. (sda)

The rabbis had threatened that devout believers would leave Israel if they were called up for military service. What are they saying today?

The ultra-Orthodox circles were highly critical of the court ruling. They say the court doesn’t know the value of reading the Torah – it can’t be classified. The Shaz party leader went so far as to say that Torah and devout believers would perform miracles through their Torah study campaign. There is no word yet on whether people will leave the country now. But political protests and demonstrations are to be expected.

It has been demanded that this judgment should be implemented immediately.

How do ordinary people in Israel behave?

The body primarily responsible for bringing about the judicial decision speaks of a historic step leading to an egalitarian society. A similar message is heard from the political opposition. There is now a demand to implement this judgment immediately.

Ultra-Orthodox parties in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government oppose compulsory service for hardline believers. So what does this ruling mean for the Israeli government?

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The ruling will lead to political debate and conflict, especially since the court has banned the Israeli government from continuing to fund non-military religious schools. It involves large sums of millions. But I don’t think this verdict will have a big immediate impact on the current government coalition.

Brigitte Kramer conducted the interview.