Replacing Tal (JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL) 04/29/12)
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As the Knesset summer session begins, there has been a renewed push
to pass legislation that will encourage more Israelis – in particular
haredim – to perform military service.
In February, the High Court of Justice ruled that the “Tal Law,”
which anchored in law sweeping deferrals from military service for
haredi men, contradicted the principle of equality by effectively
exempting some citizens from military service while obligating
others. With the Tal Law expiring in August, the Knesset must pass
alternative legislation before summer recess.
Last Saturday night, grassroots movements relaunched demonstrations,
this time in the Rose Garden across from the Knesset. Activists call
themselves “suckers,” to express their frustration with the fact that
more than 60,000 yeshiva students between the ages 18 and 41 receive
deferrals from the IDF while other Israelis of the same age are
obligated to perform military service.
At least one cabinet member, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad
Erdan, visited so-called Suckers’ Tent set up in Rose Garden and
signed a petition calling for universal military or civil service.
Over Independence Day various political leaders emphasized the
importance of an “equitable sharing of obligations.” During an award
ceremony for 120 outstanding soldiers – including several haredi men –
President Shimon Peres made such a call. Speaking at the Bible Quiz,
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said that “today we need a
significant change in the way we share our obligations.”
Citizens from all the sectors must cooperate in fulfilling their
civilian obligation, first among being military service, or national
service in appropriate cases.
Meanwhile, Yisrael Beytenu Chairman and Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman wrote on his Facebook wall that he hopes by next year, the
soldiers given awards on Independence Day will originate from all
sectors – secular, haredi, Druse, Arab and Beduin.
Eyeing their popularity ratings ahead of elections – currently slated
for fall 2013 – politicians know that advocating “equitable sharing
of obligations” garners wide appeal. A recent poll conducted by
Hiddush, an NGO that supports religious pluralism, surveyed 500
Jewish Israeli adults and found that 82 percent favor legislation
that would force yeshiva students to perform military service.
Still, our lawmakers must be careful not to get carried away by the
populist fervor. Doing away with the Tal Law altogether, abolishing
deferrals and forcing young haredi men to join the IDF under threat
of fine or imprisonment would be a serious mistake. Direct coercion
will only strengthen the most extreme elements in the haredi
community who are fundamentally opposed to any form of military or
Instead, the state must find ways to maintain gentle but insistent
pressure on haredi young men to share with their non-haredi brethren
in the collective endeavor to defend the Jewish state.
Measures should include providing economic incentives for those who
do serve; creating additional frameworks within the IDF that can
accommodate the haredi population while at the same time being
careful not to undermine the uniformity of military service;
restricting the drafting of haredi men to those who can truly
contribute to the IDF while referring others to National Service; and
fostering cooperation with leaders of the haredi community who are
willing to quietly support the drafting of yeshiva students who lack
the disposition to sit and study for eight to 12 hours a day.
Ways must be found to allow the significant, widespread evolutionary
changes taking within this population to proceed unhindered. It is
the best way to facilitate integration.
The vast majority of Israelis are understandably disconcerted by the
realization that due to brisk haredi population growth, within a
decade or two, half of all 18-year-old men will opt out of mandatory
But we should remember something else – that in another decade or
two, the haredi population will have changed dramatically, and
significantly larger numbers will be sharing in the collective
burdens of the Jewish nation. Coercion will not expedite this
inevitable change; it will only delay it. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem
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