Cancelled poll eases conscription pressure on Netanyahu

Interesting.     Study religion and avoid military service!!!!

Cancelled poll eases conscription pressure on Netanyahu

By Middle East correspondent Anne Barker, ABCMay 9, 2012, 5:37 pm
The cancellation of elections in Israel allows the government more time to deal with the controversial issue of the military conscription of Ultra Orthodox Jews.
The decision to shelve the September poll, announced only a day earlier, came after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu forged a new coalition with key centrist party Kadima.
It means Mr Netanyahu can now avoid an election until next year and focus on other issues, like the resentment among secular Israelis about the 1 million Ultra Orthodox Jews who avoid military service.
At the time of Israel’s creation in 1948, Ultra Orthodox Jews were only a tiny minority within society.
So it was no controversy when Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, exempted them from military service, allowing them to devote their lives to religious study instead.
But that small number has grown into a large community in today’s Israel.
An estimated 6,000 to 10,000 Ultra Orthodox Jews a year now benefit from the military exemption, which has since been enshrined in law.
Secular Jews like Zahava Alon believe it creates an unfair burden on the rest of Israeli society.
“Why should a whole group be exempt from the army and we should go and serve and protect them?” he said.
Lobbyists like Mr Alon have for years staged protests outside the Israeli Knesset, demanding a change to the law that lets the Ultra Orthodox off the hook while all other Jews – men and women – are conscripted into the army straight after school.
Finally in February this year, Israel’s high court agreed and ordered the law to be scrapped and rewritten.
“What we’d like to see is another law that says that a quarter is going to sit and study, the rest of them are going to go to their recruiting base, and the army decide ‘I want you or I don’t want you’,” Mr Alon said.
Burning issue
The law has suddenly become a burning issue in Israel, where many of the 13 political parties in the Knesset are drafting their own bills.
Importantly, all the secular parties support a redrafted law that would force more Ultra Orthodox, and indeed Arab-Israelis, to at least do civil service if they will not serve in the army.
Ashley Perry represents ultra nationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu, which supports a more equal law.
“The law basically calls on all Israelis to share the national burden, where basically they would be given all of these options and they could choose one of them,” he said.
“If they do not, then they wouldn’t receive the same benefits as someone who does.”
A few hundred Ultra Orthodox do enlist in the army every year and the number is rising. So too is the number who do not.
But those who do enlist are given special treatment. They do not serve alongside women, they are given time off to study the bible and, in one unit, they are paid much more than other non-religious soldiers.
Ido Webber, an Ultra Orthodox rabbi who served in the army before he found religion, believes Israel needs a community of religious scholars who are exempt from military duty.
“The time that a person can study Torah, not to be disturbed from bringing money to his house etc, is at the beginning of his life when he’s in his youth,” he said.
“Afterwards, he gets married and then they’re not able to study as before.”

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