Mideast Daily News

Israeli High Courts’ Draft Ruling Shakes up Society as well as Politics

By Michael Friedson | The Media Line

September 13, 2017

Ultra-Orthodox Jews hold placards during a protest against Israeli army conscription, in the center of Jerusalem, on March 28, 2017. (Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Tuesday’s ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice that the current system of draft exemptions for students studying in religious seminaries is illegal strikes deep into the nation’s social fabric as well as its political premises. Few, if any, other issues divide the populace with such passion. All Israeli men and women face mandatory army (or national) service at the age of 18, but nearly all men in the ultra-Orthodox sector of the population routinely opt out of army duty by claiming they are full-time seminary students, infuriating the rest of the nation. The political ramifications of the policy are so great as to influence the makeup of governments since although they are unaccustomed to serving in the military, that reticence disappears when it comes to leveraging their numbers into political strength. The ultra-Orthodox constitute about 10 percent of the population of 8.5 million, but reproduce at a greater rate than most other sectors. But because they vote, vote as a bloc and vote as instructed to by their religious leaders, they have historically been able to parlay their numbers into political patronage, privilege and most upsetting to other Israelis, vast sums of public funding. The court gave the government a year to submit new legislation to correct the legal flaws.

 

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